New solar facility shows benefits of renewable energy

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"When 2,900 solar panels came online today, the economic future of rural residents became even brighter," says Ernie Shea, 25x'25 Alliance Project Coordinator. The Farmers Electric Cooperative based in Frytown, Iowa, built the solar array as part of their strategy to generate 15 percent of their power locally with renewable energy.

"Eagle Point is now the largest solar farm in Iowa, generating enough power for 120 homes a year, and, because it is renewable energy, the solar farm displaces over 2 million pounds of carbon pollution that would otherwise be generated by coal-fired power plants," continued Shea. "Farmers Electric Cooperative has the highest per-capita solar generation rate in the country. Bringing this level of renewable power generation and distribution capacity to rural America helps farmers do several things: control future energy costs, helping ensure long-term profitability, improve their environmental performance, and enhance our national security."

The Farmers Electric Cooperative solar farm was brought online in part through 25 x'25's Energy for Economic Growth (EEG) Initiative that assists rural electric utilities to develop viable business models and facilitate the deployment of renewable energy generation and distribution.

"The Kalona solar farm shows the enormous opportunities for rural electric cooperatives and utilities to be leaders in the renewable energy sector," Shea added. "As part of a cooperative business, Farmers Electric Co-op members will benefit from energy rates that are now secured long-term with multi-year distribution contracts, and because their Co-op can reduce transmission losses by generating power closer to their customers. In addition, more money stays in the local economy."

At the project's grand opening ceremony, Ronald E. Keys, a retired four-star Air Force General spoke to the crowd about renewable energy's role in national security on behalf of CNAs Military Advisory Board-a group of high-ranking retired and admirals and generals who study the relationship between energy, climate change and national security. "Diversifying our nation's energy mix to include local sources that can never run out is an important element in boosting America's energy independence. It makes us more resilient, and strengthens national security. It makes us less dependent on nations that don't always have our best interests at heart."

In addition to General Keys, Iowa's Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Naig, and Mark Cackler, Manager of the World Bank's new Global Agriculture Practice spoke at the opening. World Bank is the international financial institution that provides loans, grants, knowledge and technical assistance to developing countries with the goal of ending poverty. Both praised Farmers Electric Cooperative for helping farmers grow more food and tapping renewable energy in ways which benefit people and the environment.

The 25 x '25 Alliance's EEG Initiative is made possible through the generous support of the George D. Storer Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and others.

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