As Iowa regulators consider a comprehensive approach to alternative power generation, businesses like 7G Distributing in Cedar Rapids are installing solar arrays to offset their electricity consumption.
The regional distributor of Anheuser-Busch beverages at 9925 Sixth St. recently had a 22.6 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system installed on its 90,000-square-foot warehouse. The addition of solar power is appropriate as one in every six Anheuser-Busch brand beers is brewed with renewable fuels.
Laurie Konecny, 7G director of corporate communications, said installing solar panels was a logical next step in the company's efforts to improve its environmental performance.
“We already took steps to be more energy efficient with our facility lighting, implemented aggressive recycling programs for cardboard, plastics and aluminum, and started using global positioning systems on our delivery trucks to promote safety and fuel economy," Konecny said. "We’re always looking for what ‘more’ we can do to reduce our operational expenses and be good stewards in our community.”
The solar photovoltaic system at 7G is comprised of 84, 270-watt SolarWorld modules, Uni-rac rail and two inverters supplied by Van Meter Inc. in Cedar Rapids. The system is expected to generate about 31,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, representing an annual energy-cost savings of approximately $3,000.
Raki Giannakouros, vice president of Blue Sky Solar, the Dubuque-based project developer and integrator, said the timing was ideal for 7G to install a solar generation system.
"Solar panel prices are lower than ever, and system quality and efficiency continue to rise," Giannakouros said. "We did about 30 installations last year and the majority of them were for businesses. We're starting this year with a 100-kilowatt project."
There are over 9,370 megawatts of cumulative solar electric capacity operating in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, enough to power more than 1.5 million average American homes. It is estimated that a solar project is being installed every four minutes in the U.S.
Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said lack of uniform solar installation regulations from community to community is making it difficult for the industry to grow.
"As I talk with contractors, they don't know how to navigate all that because it's different in every municipality," Durham said. "We just received a solar grant and I think that's an area where we can most instrumental."In addition, the Iowa Utilities Board is going to be opening a formal discussion about how we can do alternative energy and how can we balance it with investor-owned utilities. That will be going on at the same time that we will be working with local officials on permitting and ordinances."