Iowa State and Alliant Energy are partnering to develop a solar farm

Iowa State University and Alliant Energy will collaborate on a solar farm to be established on university land south of Ames.

The Iowa Board of Regents has approved a request from Iowa State to proceed with the development of the solar farm and to enter into a lease agreement with Alliant Energy. Alliant Energy will design, construct, own, operate and maintain the solar farm.

The up to 900-kilowatt solar farm, at maximum output, could power 230 homes annually and will provide an equal amount of electricity to nearby teaching and research farms, Alliant Energy said in a release. Iowa State will receive renewable energy credits generated by the solar farm, which will offset a portion of the university’s annual carbon emissions.

“This new collaboration is the latest in our long-standing partnership with Alliant Energy to prepare our communities, state and nation for the future of energy and power,” said Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. “The public-private partnership represented in the new solar farm will be a significant step in making progress on our mutual renewable energy and sustainability goals.”

Last year, Wintersteen endorsed a five-year strategic plan for sustainability in operations, which includes goals for tripling the use of renewable energies and a longer-term goal of carbon neutrality.

The solar farm also furthers Alliant Energy’s goals to eliminate all coal from its generation fleet by 2040 and achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity it generates by 2050. 

“Iowa State University has been an outstanding partner and we are proud to work with them as we strive toward sustainability together,” said Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy’s Iowa utility. “Alliant Energy has proudly served customers for more than 100 years and we look forward to using innovation to continue to deliver safe, reliable, cleaner energy to customers and communities.”

The solar farm will be located on land that is part of animal science teaching and research farms managed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its Department of Animal Science. The farms are devoted to beef, sheep, swine, poultry and dairy, and also include the Ag450 Farm, the only student-managed farm at the nation’s land-grant schools.

Beyond the production of renewable energy, Iowa State University and Alliant Energy are exploring future partnerships to take advantage of the solar farm for education, research, demonstration and training purposes.

“We believe this site could provide the opportunity for us to demonstrate how solar energy and solar farms can be successfully integrated into rural communities, and to help communities understand the role of renewable energy in agriculture and beyond,” said Daniel J. Robison, holder of the Dean’s Endowed Chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We certainly foresee great opportunities for our students to learn more about renewable energy in this kind of farm setting.”

Construction is expected to begin late in 2022 or in 2023. Construction and timeline for the solar farm is contingent on survey results, permitting, regulatory changes and equipment supply.