Alliant Energy shines light on Marshalltown solar farm

T-R PHOTOS BY JOE FISHER — Amanda Accola, account manager for Alliant Energy, discusses the benefits of the company’s new solar farm and storage system in Marshalltown on Wednesday.

Alliant Energy unveiled its new solar farm during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Marshalltown Generating Station on Wednesday.

The Marshalltown Solar Garden, located to the east of the generating station at 2115 E. Nevada Street, is home to 9,500 solar panels spread across about 15 acres of land. The panels absorb sunlight on both sides, meaning light that reflects off of the snow this winter can also be absorbed.

The solar panels are connected to a battery storage system, which Interstate Power and Light President Terry Kouba described the farm as a pilot project to test the battery storage system.

The storage system will hold power during the day while the panels collect it, then disperse the energy at night when usage is higher.

Kouba noted energy costs are lower during the day when many customers are not home using it. The cost spikes in the morning and evening when people are typically home. By dispersing energy that was stored during the “cheaper” time of the day, energy costs can be curved in favor of customers.

Project manager Tim Kreft explains how Alliant Energy’s new solar farm and battery storage system works during the unveiling of the Marshalltown Solar Garden on Wednesday.

When solar energy is used, the biggest impact customers see on their bill is in the “fuel” category.

“Certainly the fuel for our solar farm is free. It’s the sun,” Kouba said. “That means we save our customers money every time we use it.”

The solar farm is capable of powering about 400 homes, according to a press release from Alliant Energy. The battery storage system can charge in two hours with full sunlight hitting the panels. The storage system is capable of powering about 200 homes for two hours.

The solar farm has been active since February, but the storage system went online this week.

Marshalltown is home to the third battery storage site in Iowa but it is the first to be connected to a utility-sized solar field. Wellman and Decorah also house battery storage systems.

Alliant Energy’s Marshalltown Generating Station is home to 9,500 solar panels and a new battery storage system. The pilot project is the third of its kind in the state and the first to have a battery system connected to a utility-sized solar field.

“We start on projects like this to learn how to do it, do it well and then we scale it,” Kouba said. “It’s all part of the plan to really fuel the next generation.”

MGS senior manager of operations Kevin Schaefer said he was surprised how well the solar farm held up through the derecho in August. He said two brackets were turnt “slightly” and it was the only damage done from the storm.

“It’s pretty impressive,” he said of the solar farm. “It goes a long ways to show what we can do.”

While the current storage system is meant as a learning tool, Schaefer said the opportunity is there to upgrade in the future.

“You’ll probably see some updates on the battery system down the road,” he said. “It won’t be anything soon because it’s pretty new technology.”

Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com


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