Our Town Kalona: a town with a sense of the past and eye on the future

Published: Jun. 16, 2017 at 11:24 AM CDT
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Our Town Kalona is a unique town with a sense of the past with the Amish practically around every corner. But it also has an eye on the future as a leader in producing renewable energy.

A few miles north of Kalona lies a farm that some people in Our Town might not even know about. It's a solar farm, covering this nine acre field, and it's producing electricity for Kalona's Farmers Electric Cooperative.

But this solar farm, one of the largest in Iowa, one of the nation's leaders, grew from a smaller project a few miles away.

"In 2008, we started a little demonstration project with a few rows of solar panels, and we sold the individual panels to the customers. It became so popular that we just kept expanding this little garden," said Warren McKenna of the Farmers Electric Co-operative.

Now that little garden has more than 100 owners, local people who are benefiting from solar power in their homes.

"If you don't have room on your property, you can buy one module, up to ten, and we site it here at the Co-op, and that production is shown on your power bill as a credit," said McKenna.

After the success of the solar garden, the Co-op opened the larger solar farm in 2014, and more than doubled its original size just last November. The panels are now powering their next door neighbor, the Farmers Hen House. 240 million free range and free range organic eggs go through this plant each year, heading to customers throughout the midwest and other states, some as far away as Georgia and California.

"We like that we can use 100 per cent renewable energy. That's been big for us. Even though we don't own the solar field, we use all the power from it. And they let us tell our customers about that. A lot of our customers really like that," said Ryan Miller of Famers Hen House.

The Kalona area likes that too. It has a high concentration of all natural and organic producers, so this solar energy production is a great complement to that.

"They come to us and ask for renewable energy. They utilize that in their product marketing. So it's kind of a push from the customer side as well," said McKenna. "We try to make sure we let customers know that as much as possible. We put a little decal on the egg cartons that says 100 per cent solar."

It's an energized move to the future that's already happening in Our Town Kalona.