Solar in the “I States”


As other parts of the country get attention for solar energy developments, some Midwestern states add more solar installations of their own. This look at the “I states” shows the Midwest is not to be discounted when it comes to solar.


Solar isn’t just for states like California and Arizona. Lately, the Midwest has been embracing solar. In particular, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois have been in the news recently showing off their solar skills. Here’s a look at how things have been heating up in the “I states.” A review of just some of what’s happening there shows that it’s an exciting time for solar”I”zing the Midwest.


Let’s start with the farms. Recently, farmers in Iowa and Illinois have been powering their farms with solar, to very positive effect. In some instances this has been lowering power bills by as much as two-thirds.  


In Southeastern Iowa, Farmer’s Electric Cooperative, one of the oldest energy cooperatives in the nation, will soon be the largest provider of solar energy in the country. With the completion of their newest solar array, scheduled to be completed this spring, FEC will have over 1500 watts of solar per customer.


This is happening as the Iowa senate has introduced a bill that would require Iowa utilities to provide a minimum of 105 MW of solar to their customers. Senate file 2107 is actually a revision of the current law that requires utilities to provide 105 MW of renewable energy. Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, states that this bill is aimed at bolstering solar, as there has already been “extraordinary development of wind energy” in Iowa to date. Specifically, close to 25% of Iowa’s energy production currently comes from wind energy.


In fact, The Iowa Environmental Council recently released a study reporting that solar would be a strong complement to Iowa’s already robust Wind Energy Program. Noting that Iowa’s solar production would peak when wind production slows, the report showed that the potential for significant reliance on renewables in Iowa is huge.


Finally, Iowa has received a federal grant of over $1 million for the Iowa Statewide Solar Readiness Initiative, which aims to increase citizen awareness of solar energy and encourage more Iowans to explore the use of solar.




In Indiana, Duke Energy is moving forward with their settlement to provide more renewable energy options to Indiana in response to their coal-gasification project. They have sent out a call for proposals for 5 MW of solar projects. While this is a far cry from the 300 MW proposal they have announced in the Carolinas, it is nevertheless a start. Duke Energy is required to provide 15 MW of renewable energy, from both solar and wind sources. Purdue University has already contracted for 10 MW of wind energy on their proposed Tippecanoe County wind farm.


The Indiana job market has been reflecting this move forward in solar. According to the Solar Jobs Census released recently, there was an increase of over 170% in solar jobs in Indiana, accounting for 960 new jobs.




Finally, Illinois is not to be ignored. They are moving forward in exciting ways. As of January of this year, community solar may be getting a boost from condo associations there. The Illinois Condominium Property Act grants associations the ability to install solar installations on their common areas. Additionally, in the fall, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium unveiled a 265 kW solar installation on their rooftop garden. And a Naperville VFW is going solar, helped in part by a Solar Cure Adopt a Solar Panel program.


Last month, things kept moving forward as Augustana College installed 10 solar panels at their Green Wing Environmental Laboratory, enough to provide power for all of the accommodations and laboratory equipment at the field station.


Last November, Walgreens opened the country’s first net-zero-energy store in Evanston. The store uses nearly 850 solar panels, 2 wind turbines, and a geothermal system to generate their energy. At this time, it is estimated that the store will produce 20,000 more kilowatt-hours of energy than it uses annually.


In fact, Illinois is becoming so desirable for solar that Intelligent Generation, a solar distributed storage company, has been partnering with several Illinois businesses to increase solar production.