Alliant Energy unveils plans for Cedar Rapids community solar garden

Electricity customers can enroll to draw energy from the solar blocks and receive monthly credits on their electricity bills.

Alliant Energy unveils plans for Cedar Rapids community solar garden

Alliant Energy’s new Cedar Rapids Community Solar garden will be built north of the 1100 block of 33rd Avenue SW on company-owned property. Construction starts summer 2022 with estimated completion of late summer 2023. (Alliant Energy)

Alliant Energy started construction on a community solar garden in Cedar Rapids this summer, the company announced Tuesday morning in a news release. Electricity customers can enroll to draw energy from the solar blocks to their own properties and, once the facility is operational, receive monthly credits on their electricity bills.

The solar garden will consist of 18,000 solar blocks that will amount to 4.5 megawatts per year – which could help power 3,600 homes. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average annual electricity consumption for residential utility customers was 10,715 kilowatt-hours in 2020.

To claim their renewable energy, customers purchase a solar block from the community solar garden. Each 250-watt solar block will generate an average of 541 kilowatt-hours annually and is priced at $395, said Melissa McCarville, a senior communications partner for Alliant Energy. The generated solar energy will be distributed to subscribers via the power grid.

“Our community solar program allows the company’s electric customers to benefit from solar power without having to install solar panels on their property,” she said.

The incoming community solar garden in Cedar Rapids will bring solar energy to subscribers’ properties via the power grid. (Alliant Energy)

Enrollment in the project is on a first-come, first served basis for Alliant Energy’s electric customers in Iowa, McCarville said. Subscriptions for the community solar garden opened on Tuesday. Alliant Energy offers an online calculator for potential subscribers to determine how many solar blocks they would need to supplement or fully cover their energy needs.

Sixty percent of the garden – the maximum amount a single subscriber can claim – is already committed to Transamerica and Aegon Asset Management, a diversified insurance and investment group. An additional 6% will be allotted to the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity. Alliant Energy will donate up to $400,000 in solar blocks to Habitat for Humanity homeowners in need and will issue up to $600,000 in bill credits to participating residents.

Another 25% of the solar blocks are reserved for residential customers. The remaining blocks are currently available for business customers but could eventually open up to residential customers as well, McCarville said.

Subscribers can receive monthly credits on electric bills for every block of energy purchased, beginning at $0.559 per kilowatt-hour. Those credits will begin once the garden is operational and will continue for the 20-year life of the project, McCarville said.

This will be Alliant Energy’s first community solar garden in Iowa and its second nationally, following the garden completed in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in late 2021.

“We are excited for our Iowa customers to enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy,” said Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy’s Iowa energy company, in the news release. “The Community Solar program is just one more way we can use our knowledge and resources to serve our customers while bringing them options and solutions to meet their needs.”

The solar garden will be built on an Alliant Energy-owned property north of the 1100 block of 33rd Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids. Construction is expected to be completed by late summer 2023.

Brittney J. Miller is an environmental reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for Americaa national service program that places in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.

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