Solar Energy

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Community Solar Update


The City of Ames has undertaken a green energy and sustainability project to ensure any Ames electric customer wanting to take advantage of solar-generated energy has the ability to do so via investment in a community solar project, SunSmart Ames.

SunSmart Ames is a community solar project designed to generate 1.5 to 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity by early 2018 for purchase by Ames Electric Services. Ames Electric Services customers are able to invest in the project by buying generation shares or “Power Packs.” Each Power Pack represents a one-time investment and will entitle customers to a future bill credit based on the amount of energy generated by the solar array and the market price of electricity. It is estimated a Power Pack will cost less than $500.

Establishing a community solar project is a priority of the Ames City Council and the Ames model is similar to a program offered by the Cedar Falls Utilities. The solar generation facility will be built and operated by a private entity, and Ames Electric Services will purchase all electricity provided by the solar panels and provide a bill credit to SunSmart Ames customers.

There are two sites for SunSmart Ames under consideration. The primary site is a field on Airport Road, just north of the Ames Municipal Airport. This site must be evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for construction due to its proximity to the airport. The secondary site is between the Ames Animal Shelter and Billy Sunday Road, just south of U.S. 30. This location will require clearing and some fairly significant moving and leveling of earth.

The SunSmart Ames project will begin construction when 80 percent of the available Power Pack shares have been purchased.

Look for updates here, or contact Energy Services Coordinator Steve Wilson at 515-239-5177 or

How do I participate in the SunSmart solar farm project?

Investing in SunSmart is an investment in Ames in that it supports the community's ongoing efforts to be sustainable.  The solar farm will produce renewable and clean electricity which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The utility will sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the installer which is a 20 year contract that will lock in a price for the electricity generated by the farm.  This price cannot increase so it acts as a hedge against rising utility costs going forward.  Each participant will receive a small credit on their bill.  This is truly a great project for Ames!  How does one participate?  Purchase a Power Pack!

A Power Pack is a unit of electricity produced by the solar farm.  Each Power Pack represents a portion of the total electricity produced by the solar farm.  As an example, if you purchase one Power Pack it will physically produce a small percentage of the total electricity output of the solar farm.  Each month you would receive a credit on your bill equal to that percentage of the total your Power Pack represents.  The Power Packs are currently estimated to cost $500 each but will more than likely cost less once all the variables for installation are known.  This is our working model price right now. 

The process is to have an electric customer of the City of Ames who is interested sign an 'Intent to Participate' document.  Signing this document does not obligate you to anything but helps us understand how many are interested in investing in the solar farm.  Once we get 80% of the available power packs pre-sold we will go forward with the project.  At that time those who signed an Intent to Participate will be asked to sign a contract and pay for the cost of their Power Packs.

IF you purchase a power pack (or multiple power packs... there is currently no limit) each month your bill will be credited an equivalent dollar amount representing the percentage of the whole for your power packs.  The amount credited will be somewhere around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (you currently pay 12.1 cents per kilowatt-hour in the summer and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour in the winter for your electricity).  Most people purchasing one power pack would see a small monthly credit, we estimate it to be around a dollar or two.  Achieving a payback is possible but not likely before the term of the contract period of 20 years.  People typically are not going to sign up for SunSmart to make money but they do sign up to participate in a green, renewable, sustainable energy resource. 

Get an 'Intent to Participate' form here.

What is Solar Energy? 

Solar energy is energy provided by the sun. This energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.


Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect" – when sunshine hits the PV cell, the photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow, generating electricity.

Why Solar Energy?

• Solar energy advances the City’s Eco Smart goal to decrease its carbon footprint. 

• Solar energy is not only sustainable, it is renewable.

• Solar energy is silent. There is absolutely no noise made from photovoltaic panels as they convert sunlight into usable electricity.

• During operation, solar electricity power plants produce zero emissions.

Check out all of the residential and commercial solar sites in Ames, click here. 

Smart Energy now offers a rebate for the installation of photovoltaic systems.

Get a Photovoltaic Rebate form by clicking here. Roof with solar panels

Steps to Renewable Generation (Process Guide)

To view the guide, click here.

To view the Solar Interconnection Agreement, click here.

Anyone interested in installing a photovoltaic system will also need to work closely with Planning & Housing and Inspections. Here are links to information you will find helpful:

Planning & Housing



Electrical Permit Application

Building Permit Application

Because the City's photovoltaic program has the potential to change, it is recommended you contact the utility to ensure you are taking into account current rebate, metering, and excess energy payment information.

For technical help, call Lyndon Cook at 515-239-5174 or email
For rebate information call Steve Wilson at 515-239-5177 or email




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