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Dubuque Solar Garden Provides Clean Energy & Soon, Educational Fun
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Dubuque Solar Garden Provides Clean Energy & Soon, Educational Fun

Nestled against the Mississippi River, Dubuque, Iowa could be the dictionary definition of picturesque farmland.In 2010, Forbes called Dubuque the number one small town to raise a family. “Field of Dreams” was shot around Dubuque city and county (you can still visit the field). There are 53 parks in city limits, featuring everything from historical markers to playgrounds.

And if that weren’t enough feathers in its cap, Dubuque is also home to the largest solar garden in Iowa. Fans of interactive education, rejoice: the site will include an educational display as well as a bike path.

The Port of Dubuque Solar Garden and West Dubuque Solar Garden, built by Alliant Energy, collectively boast 19,160 panels across 27 acres. The larger of the two gardens is located in the Dubuque Industrial Center West, with the second, smaller garden, near downtown.  

Now that the gardens are up and running, their combined might can power up to 850 homes. In a city of under 100,000 people, that’s a huge chunk. The site takes up a sloped piece of land in the industrial park. The slope makes it less than ideal for an industrial building but perfect for solar panels, allowing the panels to be grouped closer together and angled to reduce shade.

With the costs of solar power decreasing, even residential areas can save money while reducing environmental impact with solar energy. Depending on how much sun a house gets, families can easily cut costs by switching some (or all) of their energy to solar power. Some installation costs can even be covered by government rebates or tax credits.

Dubuque enjoys a close relationship with sustainable, green living. Their Green Dubuque program, which features a six-pronged approach towards influencing education, local policy, and everyday life, promotes solar power as a part of their no-regret energy solution. The program, which also promotes collaborative action that is science-based and inclusive of all members of the community, is green social work at its finest.

Green social work is a concept based on the premise that social work is a field dedicated to a person’s environment as the contributing factor for happiness. It takes the basic principle of the environment (meaning our home and work life) to a greater scale: eco-friendly living aimed at sustainability and harmony with nature. The idea can expand to cover social inclusion as well. When community members from all walks of life can band together to generate a more environmentally harmonious city for all residents, everyone’s lives are enriched. It’s no wonder they took Forbes’ top honors.   

Tourism plans for the Port of Dubuque site are set for completion spring of 2018. Once the display is complete, Alliant Energy plans to unveil the site with an open house.

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