Small Iowa Solar Array Signals Utility’s Direction

Looking much like flowers growing in a field of snow, two large solar arrays were installed this week in front of Muscatine Power & Water’s administration building, 3205 Cedar St.

Muscatine, Iowa – February 13, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] With sunshine and a few more tweaks to a power converter located inside, utility officials expect the arrays to be producing electricity in a couple of days. Ryan Mayfield, engineering manager for the Oregon-based Energy Outfitters Ltd., is working with the public utility to set up the arrays. MP&W purchased the $14,000 equipment from Energy Outfitters, and utility workers installed the array for an estimated $11,000. “This is the first time that our company has worked closely with a utility company to promote solar energy,” Mayfield said. “MP&W understands that it needs to diversify its power sources and hopefully this small array will help lead the way.” The 2.5-kilowatt arrays, produced by Sharp Electronics, will produce more than 4,000 kilowatt hours worth of power annually, or enough to run a typical home for five months. At maximum capacity, all of MP&W’s coal-burning plants combined can produce 294 megawatts of power. Although the front-yard solar arrays are half-jokingly referred to as ‘Unit 10′ by utility officials, the same officials are serious about the future of “Solar Muscatine,” the public utility’s alternative energy program. Customers can volunteer to pay $3, $5 or $7 extra on their monthly utility bills to help pay for the purchase and installation of additional solar arrays throughout Muscatine. To spur residents’ interest in alternative energy, John Root, MP&W energy services advisor and long-time Muscatine alternative energy activist, plans to create a Web site that will constantly measure the amount of power the arrays produce in real-time. “This is very empowering,” said Root, describing the “Solar Muscatine” initiative. “It’s a way for the community to take ownership of their power supply.” Article and photograph courtesy of the Muscatine Journal (see link below).

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