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KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Knoxville city leaders want to let the sunshine in.  “We have an opportunity to do small things that can make a big difference,” said city manager Aaron Adams.  On Monday, Knoxville city council seized that opportunity by voting to move forward on a solar project with Norwalk’s Red Lion Renewables.  We would like to show our community we want to be environmentally conscious and that we are forward thinking,” said Adams.

The $1.6 million dollar project will not cost the city a dime to build.  It will include the wast water treatment plant and a maintenance shop but the largest panel would double as a car port on South 3rd Street and East Montgomery Street supplying solar power to city hall, the police department, fire department and library.  “It’ll offer shade for the summer and keep snow off the windshields in the winter.”

There’s also a power battle brewing.  The buildings are currently powered by Mid-American energy who was unsuccessful in swaying
the minds of city leaders on the project.  They responded by saying.  “We are disappointed that the city didn’t take the time to fully evaluate the proposal and its long-term implications.”  Adams said the city is not cutting ties.  “Mid-American is a good partner.  We don’t want to lost that partnership. In fact, our plans are only to offset power use by about 90%.”

Mid-American also felt the city rushed It’s decision to go green with someone else by saying, “Last year we provided 50.8 percent of our customer’s energy needs with renewable energy, and we expect to deliver 100% renewable energy to all Iowa customers by 2021.”

The city says they could save $400,000 over the next three decades.  While that may not be significant, they say switching to solar isn’t a money grab, it’s about opening doors to the city’s future.  “We as a city government are trying to be forward looking.  We try to have a plan not just for today but for the future,” said Adams.

Red Lion Renewables has about half of the money raised for the project which could be completed by the end of the year.  They now have ninety days to come up with around $750,000 from investors or the city can back out of the deal.