April 08, 2019 10:39 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- More than two dozen community members gathered at a Forest City assisted living facility Monday to learn more about a solar energy project being built on the city's northeast side.
Alberta-based BluEarth Renewables is building a solar farm made up of 11,908 individual photovoltaic panels behind the Forest Plaza Assisted Living facility on Highway 9. The facility will generate up to 3 megawatts of electricity, enough to fulfill around 10 percent of the city's total energy needs.
"There are community-scale solar installations going on all across the country, and I think that just kind of points to people wanting to shift to something that's cleaner and less polluting," Tom Bird, the director of BluEarth's regulatory and business development, told ABC 6 News.
Forest Plaza resident Rozella Hagen, a former teacher, said she's excited to see the project become reality, dismissing minor issues that come with construction like noise, traffic, and dirt.
"I grew up before we had electricity, and when (the Rural Electrification Administration) came it was just like a whole new world opened up," she said. "This sounds like it's kind of along that line."
Karen Monson of Forest City said she knew very little about the project prior to Monday's presentation. Her questions were largely focused on infrastructure.
"I was curious about a lot of things, whether they own the land or lease the land. Oddly enough the first thing that came to my mind is hail damage. We get some mighty big hail here," she said.
Online property records show Butter Solar LLC purchased the 15-acre site in January for $95,242. Prior to that, the land had been used for agriculture.
Bird said a common concern he hears is from area residents who don't want to see farmland taken out of production. To make good use of the property, he said landscaping that will attract butterflies and bees will be part of the project.
Additionally, all of the power generated by the project will be sold to the Forest City Electric Utility through a 25-year agreement with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group.
As for the future of solar energy, Bird said lower panel costs will lead to solar becoming a viable energy source for more and more communities.
"The modules, the panels, that's the most expensive part, keeps going down so much that solar is on par now with other forms of generation," he said.
According to a project website, the city expects significant savings over their current power agreement, which would be passed on to ratepayers.
The panels are expected to go live by the end of May or early June.
Updated: April 08, 2019 10:39 PM
Created: April 08, 2019 08:26 PM
Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company