Just one month after the groundbreaking Sustainable Living Center was unveiled on the Maharishi Campus in Fairfield, another new building is now completely off the grid thanks to sustainable energy.
Thursday afternoon, the community that has been called one of the greenest cities in America flipped the switch on a solar panel that will power the first net-zero business in the state. Sky Factory's 3,500 square foot panel is the first of its kind, and will power 104% of the company's power needs.
"This is the first light manufacturing plant to be completely net-zero, which is amazing," said Troy VanBeek, Owner of Ideal Energy. "It's the first one in the state and it's a huge landmark for Iowa, so I think it's really waking people up that this can actually happen. I think before this, there's a lot of people would think, well, can we even utilize solar power in Iowa, we're just the Midwest, can we make this happen? But truth is, we grow corn here, it's because we have so much sun. So it works really, really well."
Students with an eye for an eco-conscious future were on hand to help flip the switch on the panel and officially dedicate a landmark in solar technology for the community, the state and the nation.
"Now they can make the world a cleaner place," said student Sydney Johnson. "Now if everyone does their part, we can all make the world better."
The celebration of solar energy is not only important to the Sky Factory, but it is a symbol of eco-consciousness in Fairfield and the state of Iowa.
"What it tells everyone is what is possible, so we can relish the ability to be an example to other communities and we can really congratulate Sky Factory for making that contribution," said Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy.
"We can help families provide for their welfare, we help the ecology, we help the United States become more secure, so it's a very wonderful thing here in Fairfield where we can do this," said State Representative Curt Hanson, of House 90.
So what is next in the future of sustainable energy and net-zero buildings?
"The next step is for us... [is] to assist in every way possible other people who would like to do the same thing," said Bill Witherspoon, founder of the Sky Factory. "It takes some inner commitment that goes on over time before something like this can happen."
The solar panel project was started in November of last year, and thanks to the warm winter, was able to be completed quickly. In addition to the energy system, Sky Factory also has an on-site greenhouse and a total recycling program.