Iowa’s rural solar prosperity is under attack

  • Andy Johnson is a farmer and executive director of Clean Energy Districts of Iowa.
  • Warren McKenna is former manager of Farmers Electric Cooperative and a current solar consultant.

The debate over large-scale solar energy in Iowa has reached the Capitol. A bill recently passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senate File 2127, would effectively outlaw solar panels on the vast majority of Iowa farmland.

Solar energy represents investment, jobs, grid stability, energy independence, tax base, agricultural diversification, emissions reductions, and so much more.

The opportunity cost of freezing large-scale solar throughout rural Iowa is huge. With favorable conditions, we could easily see 10 gigawatts of solar in coming years (that’s roughly the current amount of wind energy in Iowa), and potentially much more over time. 

Back-of-the-napkin calculations for 10 gigawatts of solar, based on research conducted for previous solar projects, suggest over $10 billion of initial investment, over 50,000 jobs, and $30 billion to $40 billion over 25 years in returns to utilities, landowners, and state and local governments. It would power well over a million homes and, with the addition of storage, would strengthen large sections of Iowa’s grid against climate and cyber disasters.

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