Forest City, Iowa – Tom Bird of BluEarth Renewables, the operator of the solar facility going up northeast of Forest Plaza, met with residents Monday afternoon. Residents and community leaders filled the kitchen at Forest Plaza to hear from Bird.
The project, which started in January, is set for completion and operation at the end of May. This will be the first project that the Calgary, Alberta based company will operate in the United States. The panels will sit on a special blend of “pollinator-friendly,” low-growing, primarily native meadows designed for the project area. The vegetation will be managed naturally, but the means of that management haven’t been decided. Land for the project was purchased from Wayne Johnson of Forest City, who says the company purchased nearly 17 acres of farmland. The panels themselves take up about 15 of those acres and hosts a little more than 8,000 panels.
Forest City was chosen for the project by One Energy. One Energy picks suitable locations for solar facilities all across the county. They then sell them to building and management companies like BluEarth.
This facility will produce about 20% of the towns power usage. The City Electric Utility will purchase the energy from the project under a 25-year common power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group (UMMEG). Mr. Bird said the panels should last 20 years.
Bird said that solar is growing quickly and farmland is most suitable for new development.