Allan Mallie is used to harvesting corn and soybeans, but later this year, he’ll also be collecting sunlight.
Work is under way to install 168 solar panels on Mallie’s farm along Highway 1 just north of Mount Vernon. Once activated, the 40.3 kilowatt solar power system should cut in half the amount of electricity Mallie uses to power two hog confinement buildings.
Those involved with the project hope to be capturing UV rays by May 1.
The solar panels are sold by Integrated Power Corp., or iPower, a California-based solar energy company owned by former University of Iowa and NFL football player Tim Dwight. Nelson Electric of Cedar Rapids is installing solar panels.
Bob Hill, owner of Hill Renewables in Lisbon, is partnering with iPower on the project. He said Mallie approached him two years ago when he was about to build the second hog building.
“He had concerns about how much electricity the new operation was going to take, because they have great big fans and have to pull a lot of air through, especially in the summertime,” Hill said.
Mallie, 53, said it currently costs about $900 per month to power the two hog buildings. He expects to offset about half those costs with the solar system during the first year, and would like to add more panels to completely power the hog buildings in future years.
The solar panels, each 3 feet by 5 feet, will be installed in four rows at ground level on about an acre of land on Mallie’s farm. Buried transmission lines will connect the system to the hog buildings about 200 yards away.
The solar system will be connected to the power grid for Linn County REC, which has an agreement to purchase any excess solar energy produced on Mallie’s farm at wholesale price.
Mallie hopes to develop a 1 megawatt solar farm within five to 10 years, which would produce enough electricity to power about 650 households, about the size of Lisbon.
“We want to capture the retail price for electricity,” Mallie said.
Hill said technological advances and attractive rebates have made it feasible for people to consider solar systems. He said Mallie’s project should pay for itself in eight or nine years, but the solar panels come with a 25-year guarantee.
Hill expects there will be more interest going forward.
“People know our cheap energy rates are done,” Hill said.