Eastern Iowa Farm Fueled by the Sun

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

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By Rachel Begle

LINN COUNTY, Iowa - The sun, it’s always been a vital part of the agriculture industry. But, one Eastern Iowa farmer is harnessing the power of the sun to do more than just grow crops.

Allen Mallie built a new hog confinement operation north of Lisbon two years ago. The electric bill alone is about $1,000 per month. Mallie is hoping the sun and solar panels will help reduce those costs.

In the middle of a typical Iowa corn field Allen Mallie is building a solar farm. The solar panels will help power Mallie's two hog buildings. Buildings that include dozens of large fans to control the temperature needed to keep the pigs happy, control the odor keeping his neighbors happy, and control the electric bill keeping the farmer happy.

"With a 40kw solar ray, we're looking at reducing our cost to 50 percent," said Mallie.

And, he doesn't have to worry about those cloudy days we see all too often in Iowa, they won't block his power supply.

"It’s the same rays your mom warned you about when you go out and it's cloudy because it can still burn your skin. The modules are collecting UV ray sun so you can produce on a cloudy day," said Bob Hill of Hill Renewables.

Mallie's solar powered farm is one of the first of its kind in this area, he and Hill, who helped with the project, say they hope to one day fuel more than just the farm

"Our plan is to fill this whole field with panels basically creating a power plant here," said Hill.

A power plant Mallie says is better for the environment and will help offset rising utility costs.

"We all know utilities are looking to raise kilowatt per hour they aren't going to back off. Look at the cost 10, 15, 20 years from now I'll still be at today’s costs," said Mallie.

So, while to many the smell of hogs isn't pretty, to Allen it smells like money.

Mallie estimates the panels will pay for themselves within 10 years but they are guaranteed to last for at least 25. He hopes the panels will be fully operational by the start of next month.

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