Leon Iowa Solar Initiative
Leon Iowa Solar Initiative
Leon Iowa Solar Initiative

Leon Iowa Solar Initiative



Help nonprofit organizations, businesses and residents lower electricity costs to increase the economic base of Decatur County, Iowa.

Awarded:: Participant

Team Information

Team Lead
Shannon Erb
Team Lead LinkedIn Profile
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Project Description

Project / Program Description

Renewable energy efforts can aid in the expansion and growth of businesses in Leon, Iowa, located in Decatur County. The Decatur County Development Corporation (DCDC) is making it a priority to emphasize renewable energy in Decatur County, and in the process, save organizations and businesses money. Because Decatur County is the poorest county in Iowa, our public and non profit entities serve a large percentage of our population that are low income. By funding the installation of large solar array in Leon, DCDC can work with Alliant Energy to offset electricity bills for organizations who use Alliant Energy as their provider. When panels are installed, an agreement will be made between DCDC and Alliant Energy, and between DCDC and the organization. These agreements will allow the organization to purchase electricity from DCDC, and DCDC will supplement Alliant Energy’s production with a solar garden. Over the course of the next 3-5 years, DCDC has plans to install enough solar panels to offset approximately 6.5 megawatts of electric usage each year. The entire project budget is estimated at $13 million ($2 per watt). This application focuses on two 1,000 kW installations at Central Decatur Schools and Decatur County Hospital, and up to 200 kW more installed at a community solar garden to offset other organizations in Leon. The progress made on this solar garden could be more, closer to 1,000 kW, depending on the amount of funding available through this 18 month process.

For all businesses and organizations involved in this program, DCDC will provide the same structure. Each month, a certain percentage of the electric bill will be offset by solar. In many cases, the energy produced by the solar panels will offset 90-100% of the business’ usage. Each month, Alliant Energy will continue to send the business a bill that will include their electric usage for the month. The organization will bring that bill to DCDC, and pay a certain percentage of the costs that would be owed to Alliant without the solar offset. We are anticipating the business will pay 80%-90% of the retail cost from Alliant each month. However, if more of this overall project can be funded through grants, and can eliminate the need for DCDC to take out a loan to pay for the installation, that discount could be higher. After the organization pays DCDC the discounted rate from Alliant’s bill, DCDC will pay Alliant whatever fees they are owed for electricity used that was not produced by the solar panels, meter fees, taxes, etc. The difference between what the business pays and what is owed to Alliant will be put into a fund at DCDC that will be used to fund more solar projects for businesses, and eventually to create a low-interest loan fund for residents who wish to install solar.

This is an initial list of businesses we hope to offset in the first 18 months of this project:

  • Central Decatur Schools
  • Decatur County Hospital
  • Decatur County Public Health
  • Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa
  • New-2-U Thrift Store

In addition, by helping offset utility bills for for-profit businesses, these business owners will have the opportunity to expand their products and services, and further increase the economic base of the poorest county in Iowa. These are the businesses that we hope to offset during the 18-36 month period of this project:

  • Leon City Hall and other Municipal Buildings
  • SCIT Theatre
  • Fusion Studios
  • The Bullpen
  • Heffron Chiropractic
  • Farmer’s Bank
  • Great Western Bank
  • Leon Car Wash and Laundromat/Sunrise Diner
  • Leon Public Library
  • Agrivision
  • Other businesses that express interest

After businesses and nonprofit entities prove this model, the community solar garden can be expanded to provide solar energy directly to low- to moderate-income households. We believe the structure can work in exactly the same way as it will with businesses.

The cost for the completion of these solar installations will be kept as local as possible. DCDC will work with an assessor and designer who lives in Lamoni, Iowa (Kevin Glaser), and will work with an installer from Leon, Iowa (Gilbert Home Comfort), both located in Decatur County. If the project needs traditional bank financing, a local bank in Decatur County will be chosen. These local partnerships will ensure that as much of the money profited on these projects as possible remains in the county to circulate and cause a direct economic impact to the cities, county, businesses, schools and residents. The only money from this project that will immediately leave the county is to cover the cost of materials and legal fees, which will both be awarded to Ampray in Kansas City, MO.

The long-term benefit of this project is that it could affect almost all businesses and homes located in Alliant Energy territory in Decatur County. Eventually, this model could also be replicated in other service territories and neighboring counties. As we plan this project, we are doing as much as we can to make it repeatable, scalable and predictable.

In addition to directly affecting businesses and residents with renewable energy, DCDC will have additional funds in their operating budget from the income of this project, and can fund exciting projects in the future to bring businesses, jobs and residents to Decatur County. This will increase the tax base, and allow the county and cities to continue to improve the quality of life for residents.