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Eagle Point Solar to build largest Iowa array

The Dubuque company will build a solar farm covering 5 to 7 acres as part of a purchase-power agreement with an electrical cooperative near Iowa City.

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Barry Shear

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 5:22 am, Thu Dec 5, 2013.

A Dubuque company will build what it says will be the largest array of solar panels in Iowa.

Eagle Point Solar recently entered into a purchase-power agreement with Farmers Electric Cooperative, a nonprofit, rural, electrical co-op near Iowa City. Eagle Point will construct a solar farm consisting of about 2,000 panels covering five to seven acres.

It will be about three times the size of the state's current largest array, which is in Decorah, said Eagle Point Solar President and CEO Barry Shear. He said the new project will be four times the size of the array on the city of Dubuque's maintenance operations garage.

Under the purchase agreement, Farmers Electric will pay Eagle Point for electricity produced by the solar panels then sell that power to its approximately 640 customers. The co-op will take full ownership of the solar farm after 10 years.

"They'll be producing energy from the sun and buying less energy produced from burning coal," Shear said. "The power goes into their grid, and they sell it to their customers."

The purchase agreement is similar but not identical to one between Eagle Point Solar and the city of Dubuque that was challenged by state utilities. The case is set to be heard by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Co-op Manager William McKenna said he was aware of the case but that did not dissuade him from entering into the agreement. One difference between the agreements is that the Farmers Electric agreement is purchase-to-own.

The co-op project will add 750 kilowatts of solar energy, more than tripling its current output, according to McKenna.

Shear said the solar farm will produce nearly 1 million kilowatt hours of energy annually.

McKenna said when the project is completed the solar farm will completely power two nearby agriculture businesses.

"We're excited about the project, excited to work with Eagle Point. (Shear) offers a complete package. It just worked for us," McKenna said.

Construction on the project will begin in March and should last roughly 60 days, Shear said. He declined to provide an estimated cost of the project.

Eagle Point Solar recently moved its main offices into the Millwork District's Schmid Innovation Center.

Nearly a century old, Farmers Electric Cooperative is the second-oldest in the nation, McKenna said.

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