Even with a cover of clouds hanging over Dubuque late Tuesday afternoon, the potential of solar energy in the city was shining brightly.
City officials, renewable energy leaders and ambassadors from the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce gathered outside Fire Station No. 4, 1697 University Ave., to commemorate the recent installation of solar arrays at five of the city’s six fire stations.
Eagle Point Solar also has installed arrays at stations at 11 W. 9th St., 2180 Kennedy Road, 3155 Central Ave. and 689 Grandview Ave. Collectively, these arrays are producing about 150 kilowatts of electricity.
“The city’s mantra is sustainability, and I am very proud to have a business in a city where they take that attitude,” said Barry Shear, president and owner of Eagle Point Solar.
The city did not install solar arrays at the station at 1500 Rhomberg Ave. because of its limited solar capacity and the likelihood that the roof would need to be repaired or replaced.
Cori Burbach, sustainable community coordinator with the City of Dubuque, said the city started using energy from the solar panels in late April.
The city paid about $2,500 to upgrade network connections needed to connect the solar panels to the internet, but these were the only up-front costs incurred. The city will pay Eagle Point through a power purchase agreement that spans 20 years.
The city generally pays about 12 cents per kilowatt hour for its energy, Burbach said. It will pay Eagle Point Solar about 8.5 cents per hour, a cost savings of nearly 30 percent.
City leaders also emphasized that the solar arrays will serve as clean sources of energy and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
“This project is a prime example of how the public and private sectors can work together to not only save money but, importantly, protect the environment through energy conservation and the expanded use of renewable energy,” Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol said.
Burbach said contributions from the solar arrays vary from station to station. At the University Avenue station, solar only accounts for about 25 percent of the total energy, whereas the array at the Kennedy Road station produces about 100 percent of the necessary energy.
Shear said the solar panels typically only generate energy from the morning to the late afternoon. Even so, the large sums of energy benefit the facility at all times.
“There is a production bubble that occurs where the facility produces more energy than what they are consuming,” Shear said. “When that is the case, the energy goes back into the utility grid and the utility gives you a metering credit for that. It is effectively like putting it into battery and getting it back later.”
This marks the second time Eagle Point Solar has worked with the city on a project. In 2011, the company installed solar panels on the city’s Municipal Services Building at 925 Kerper Court.