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Renewable Energy on the Rise

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Now that Prairie Lakes Solar is up and running, you may wonder how much of Cedar Falls’ energy supply is produced there.

The eight-acre solar farm will produce roughly 2,600 megawatt-hours (mWh) of energy per year. That’s about 0.5% of the total electricity Cedar Falls customers used in 2015, or enough to supply about 260 homes each year.

The renewable portion of Cedar Falls’ energy supply grew ten-fold over the past decade, before the new solar farm was built.

Most of the electricity used in Cedar Falls is purchased through a regional energy market. The market is administered by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) across 15 U.S. states and Manitoba.

graphThink of the MISO energy market like a giant pool. Members generate energy that flows into the pool every day, and purchase energy out of the pool to meet their communities’ daily electric needs.

The energy generated by nearly all of the wind turbines, fossil fuel and nuclear plants in Iowa flows into MISO’s power market daily. This includes energy produced at CFU’s off-site generating facilities in western Iowa.

Last year about 24% of CFU’s energy purchased through MISO was generated by wind. This means the share of wind energy in our city’s electric supply has grown from less than 2% ten years ago to nearly 24% last year, even though the wind turbines are not located here. The pie chart shows the mix of MISO’s northern zone (IA, MN, ND, SD, MT) energy sources for 2015.

CFU’s local generating facilities include two gas combustion turbines and the Streeter Station power plant on Utility Parkway, which can burn natural gas or coal. These facilities have nearly 88 megawatts of total generating capacity. They are vitally important to reliable and affordable electric service in Cedar Falls.

Our local generating units can keep the lights on during emergencies, such as transmission outages caused by wind or ice storms.

The local units also help keep Cedar Falls electric rates among Iowa’s lowest. CFU saves millions of dollars for customers each year by meeting capacity reserve requirements with local facilities. And we can generate energy locally rather than buy it when market prices spike due to peak demand.