SunSmart Ames 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 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity by mid to late 2018 for purchase by Ames Electric Services. Ames Electric Services customers are able to invest in the project by buying generation units or “Power Packs.” Each Power Pack represents a one-time investment and will entitle customers to assign a future bill credit to themselves, or anyone else within the City of Ames Electric service territory. The credit will be based on the amount of energy generated by the solar array and the market price of electricity. A Power Pack will cost $333. Each Power Pack is expected to return a credit of $1 - $2 to the assignee's bill each month.
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.
Things are progressing with the SunSmart project. The FAA has approved our primary site - the field on the north side of Airport Road, just north of the Ames Municipal Airport. We have chosen ForeFront Power as our developer/installer and are continuing to sign up folks interested in purchasing Power Packs. The SunSmart Ames project will begin construction when 80 percent of the available Power Packs have been claimed. We currently stand at 55.52 percent.
Look for updates here, or contact Energy Services Coordinator Steve Wilson at 515-239-5177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I participate in the SunSmart Ames solar farm project?
Investing in SunSmart Ames is an investment in our community 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 you own 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 $350 each but the final cost will be established once all the variables for installation are known. This is our working model price right now. When we have achieved 80% Power Pack subscription the entire project will be presented to the Ames City Council for their approval to move forward with construction.
The process is to have an electric customer of the City of Ames who is interested either complete a 'print and mail' form: 'Intent to Participate', complete an online form: 'SunSmart Ames: Community Solar Project', or call 515-239-5177. We need your name and address, how many Power Packs you want, and your email address, if you have one. At this point telling us of your intent to purchase a Power Pack 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 filled out an Intent to Participate will receive a letter reminding them of the number of Power Packs they want along with terms and conditions and a contract. The customer will be able to alter the number of Power Packs they want or opt out of the program. After the contract is signed, payment can be made in full or spread over twelve separate utility bills. Power Packs are fully transferable and can be donated, sold to someone else, remain with the home should you move, or sold back to the utility. The only requirement is that the credit remain inside the Ames Electric Services electric utility territory.
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 ownership of the whole electricity output for your Packs. The amount credited will be somewhere around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (you currently pay 12.13 cents per kilowatt-hour in the summer and 10.05 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, depending on how much the sun shines, around year 15 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.
Each Power Pack, over the 20 year life of the customer contract, could:
- produce enough electricity to power one average Ames home for about 9 months
- offset 10,000 miles driven by car
- take one car's emissions off the road for a year
- reduce CO2 equal to about as much removed by 1 acre of trees
- reduce CO2 emissions by about 5 tons
The SunSmart Ames solar farm total could:
- each year produce enough electricity to power 440 Ames homes
- in 20 years offset 113 million miles driven by car
- in 20 years take a little more than 11,000 car's worth of emissions off the road
- in 20 years reduce CO2 equal to that removed by about 11,000 acres of trees (an area the size of Boone, Story City, and Huxley combined)
- over 20 years reduce CO2 emissions by about 57,000 tons
Those interested can fill out an Intent to Participate form, or you can call Steve Wilson, the Energy Guy, at 515-239-5177. We'll need your name, City of Ames address, email address, and the number of Power Packs you want. You can also call with questions.
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.
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:
NOTE: 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.