May Farlinger’s 18-year career at Alliant Energy is almost as long as the partnership between Alliant Energy and Indian Creek Nature Center. “Indian Creek Nature Center was Alliant Energy’s very first solar project in Iowa, which was built 20 years ago.” says Farlinger, Vice President – Customer and Community Engagement at Alliant Energy, “It all started at the Nature Center. Since then, Alliant’s built numerous solar projects, both in Iowa and Wisconsin.”
“Indian Creek Nature Center’s mission is very strongly aligned with Alliant Energy’s purpose, which is to serve customers and build stronger communities,” says Farlinger, who has served on ICNC’s Board of Directors since 2019. “We also align on one of our foundation’s giving areas, which is to protect and improve the natural environment of the communities we serve. Those two things are really what sparked the long-running partnership with the Nature Center.”
After Alliant Energy partnered with ICNC to put the first net-metered photovoltaic system in Iowa on the Penningroth Barn site the relationship continued to grow.
“Our shared commitment to sustainability has driven positive change in the Cedar Rapids community and we’re really proud to support the vital work of the organization,” Farlinger said. “We have a longtime tradition of providing sponsorships for community education events, like Creek Camps and the Maple Syrup Festival, in addition to other permanent projects, like the photovoltaics exhibit at Amazing Space. We look forward to supporting the 50th anniversary events this year, as well.”
Twenty years ago solar panels were ahead of their time, but the early projects between Alliant Energy and ICNC showed the potential of solar energy.
Farlinger explains that since the first joint solar project, “solar energy has become more accessible, more affordable and more reliable. Fifty years ago the cost to produce solar energy was dramatically higher than it is today. In many cases, solar energy is the most effective option for producing energy today. The adoption of solar energy can still be a challenge, but the Amazing Space facility offers an up-close view of the incredible things solar energy can do and has promoted local adoption, as well.”
When Amazing Space was built in 2016, powering the entire building with renewable energy was seen as critical to ICNC’s mission to create a more sustainable world. Again, Alliant Energy was there. Not only do the solar panels provide all the energy needed for Amazing Space, but the system provides valuable research information to advance Alliant Energy’s renewable energy initiatives.
“Alliant Energy collects and analyzes performance information from our solar projects as well as how the environmental conditions affect them,” explained Farlinger. “This data really helps us identify any areas for improvement by identifying what renewable energy opportunities work best in our climate. It also allows us to better understand and meet the energy needs of our community.”
With mutually beneficial projects and closely-aligned missions, these two organizations are ready to continue advancing sustainability practices and renewable energy adoption for decades to come.
“Indian Creek Nature Center has built sustainability into many aspects of its operation, if not all of them,” she said. “ICNC really sets an example for the Cedar Rapids community and beyond. Alliant Energy is so proud to be a long-standing supporter of that work.”
While Alliant Energy has been connected to ICNC for 20 years, Farlinger’s love for the Nature Center began, like it did for many others, with a school field trip.
“I was raised in Cedar Rapids and the Nature Center was a place I visited as a child on school field trips. It’s so great to have the opportunity to be reengaged with the Nature Center in a meaningful way. The space is amazing, truly amazing. I’m just so proud of the work they do and the effect they have on the Cedar Rapids community.”