Dubuque City Council members today will consider a new effort to energize the city’s solar charge and lower energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Council members will consider a request for proposals to assess the cost, feasibility and benefits of installing solar panels on the city’s six fire stations.

Eagle Point Solar installed solar panels on the city’s Municipal Services Building in 2011. The project sparked a yearslong legal battle that resulted in a 2014 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that determined the company’s third-party power purchase agreement with the city did not infringe on Alliant Energy’s exclusive operating area.


Now that the legal dust has settled and the ruling has helped further establish solar power as a viable alternative energy source, city officials say it is time to look toward expansion.

“We talked to installers and Alliant Energy about what might make a good opportunity for the city’s next solar project, and they both identified the fire stations because of their usage as opposed to large users like the public works facility and water plant with large peaks,” said city Sustainable Community Coordinator Cori Burbach. “Whereas fire stations have a more-consistent energy profile closer to a small office or residential space.”

In its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030, the city has made it a priority first to focus on energy-efficiency measures and then explore opportunities for renewable energy generation, Burbach said.

The city completed energy audits of the fire stations last year and is awaiting the results of an evaluation from Modus Engineering to improve the buildings’ heating, cooling and lighting systems.

“We’ve reduced the waste of energy. Now, let’s look at renewable alternatives,” Burbach said.

City officials also are looking at the potential for solar panels at Carnegie-Stout Public Library and Dubuque Regional Airport, she said.

The request for proposals asks firms to submit detailed recommendations — at no cost to the city — on placement of rooftop solar arrays at stations where “a reasonable business case can be made” for their installation. Recommendations would need to include an assessment of the electricity to be generated, financial costs and environmental benefits.

The proposals will be reviewed by a city selection committee. That group’s recommendations would be forwarded to City Manager Mike Van Milligen.

Proposals without an upfront cost to the city could be initiated within 60 days of signing a contract. Others will require a budget request for the fiscal year beginning July 1, according to Burbach.

“Hopefully, we can get something viable that we can implement,” Fire Chief Rick Steines said, noting that the panels would be on a grid tie-in system. “When the sun’s not shining or not producing enough energy, we would pull from the grid like we do now. We also have backup generators and systems at place at all fire stations, which would continue.”

If council members approve the request today, firms will be invited to visit fire stations Sept. 29, with recommendations due Oct. 20.