Merrill Solar project on farm

Trusted Energy of Spencer, Iowa, has built several solar projects in Northwest Iowa, including this one shown above near Merrill. The renewable energy company is currently working with the city of Marathon, Iowa, to install a 1,400-panel solar farm in the Buena Vista County town that could save its residents more than $2 million in electric costs over 20 years.

MARATHON, Iowa — The town of Marathon could soon be powered by the sun.

The Buena Vista County town of about 237 is considering building a 1.42-megawatt solar project on city-owned land to supply power to residents. The more than 1,400 solar panels would be built on a former baseball field.

The proposed project would save Marathon residents $2 million over 20 years in electric costs and produce 2 million kilowatt hours per year, according to research from Trusted Energy, the Spencer, Iowa-based renewable energy company that has been working with the town since October to develop the project.

Currently, Marathon receives its electrical service from the neighboring city of Laurens.

Trusted Energy also is developing a solar project at the United Pentecostal Church of Marathon, and has built similar solar projects in Northwest Iowa near Alta, Le Mars and Merrill in the last year. 

At a Jan. 10 city council meeting, the Marathon City Council agreed to explore solar’s potential in the town, but it did not bind itself to the project with Trusted Energy.

If an agreement were to be reached, Trusted Energy CEO Rob Hach said in a release that the planning, engineering, equipment and installation costs of building the solar park wouldn’t be directly footed by the city.

“The cost for the project will not require the city to bond or take on more debt as the project will be owned and operated by Marathon Power Partners LLC, which will be a collaboration of local investors and banks to finance the project,” Hach said.

Veronica McFadden, a project developer for Trusted Energy, explained that the city would buy its power from Marathon Power Partners, and by doing so it would lock in a fixed rate on electrical, which is how the citizens' utility savings would be generated.

Hach predicted the $2.5 million start-up cost to build the solar park could be paid off within 10 years of it becoming operational.

A single megawatt is capable of powering 164 homes, according to the Solar Industries Energies Association. Marathon is home to 139 housing units, according to the latest data from the American Community Survey, an ongoing assessment tool developed by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hach noted with the decline in costs of solar building materials coupled with an abundance of available federal and state tax credits, this is an ideal time to invest in the renewable energy resource.

“Tax credits are a true benefit but the most exciting news about the solar industry is that demand for solar is driving down the costs associated with equipment,” he said.

While nothing is official yet, Marathon city clerk Denine Garton voiced her support for the solar project.

“This is a way to save our citizens money and encourage economic growth in our community while giving us more energy options,” she said.

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