Farmers Electric Cooperative Brings Solar to Rural Customers with Feed-In Tariffs, Community Solar and Iowa's Largest Privately Funded Solar Project
Las Vegas, Oct. 21, 2014 – The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), an educational nonprofit organization focused on helping utilities integrate solar electric power into their energy portfolios, today named Warren McKenna, general manager of Farmers Electric Cooperative of Kalona, Iowa, as its Utility CEO of the Year. The award was announced during SEPA's Utility Awards Luncheon at Solar Power International in Las Vegas.
Founded in 2005, SEPA's Utility Awards recognize organizations and individuals advancing utility innovation, industry collaboration and leadership in the solar energy sector. Last year, SEPA honored Kaua'I Island Utility Cooperative's David Bissell as Utility CEO of the year.
McKenna earned the 2014 award as a result of his leadership in making one of the smallest utilities in the United States – Farmers has about 650 members -- a national model for a hands-on, keep-it-simple approach to financing and building solar energy projects. The co-op helped a Mennonite high school install a 51-kilowatt (kW) solar system, with students and their families pitching in on the construction. Farmers also launched a local feed-in-tariff to support member-owned installations at farms and homes and built out a community solar garden that always has a waiting list. Farmers also recently powered up its first solar project that is privately financed through a PPA set up so that after 10 years the cooperative will own the 800-kW plant -- currently the largest in Iowa. As a founding member of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, McKenna also has become a statewide voice for solar.
"Warren McKenna is proof that industry-leading innovation can come to life at the smallest of utilities," says Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association. "Warren has provided his co-op members with the opportunity to invest in local solar in ways that build a supply of clean power for the benefit of the entire utility. He also sets a great example of how utilities and solar providers can work together in win-win business partnerships."
At the Awards Luncheon, SEPA also announced awards for Georgia Power as Investor-Owned Utility of the Year, the City of Palo Alto Utilities as Municipal Utility and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative as Cooperative of the Year. SEPA also added a new award category this year, naming Clean Power Research as its first Innovative Solar Partner of the Year.
About SEPA: SEPA is an educational nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios. SEPA is a founder and on-going co-organizer of Solar Power International. It provides a range of reports, educational events, networking opportunities and advisory consulting services to its members.