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Never pay for electricity again - Solar energy in Iowa

Solar Works for Iowa supporters held ten events, around the state, Friday and Saturday to showcase the benefits of solar power for Iowans. Iowa State Senator, Robert Hogg, (D-Cedar Rapids) kicked off the events Friday morning at the Des Moines Onstage building. Recently the Onstage organization added a 22.6 Kilowatt (KW) solar generating facility to the buildings’ roof. These 84 panels will generate 87 percent of energy used for rehearsals, offices, the scene shop and productions. The generated solar power will help offset energy bills and help reduce the buildings’ carbon footprint.

In 2012, Iowa adopted its first solar energy tax credit bill, SF2342. The bill passed the Senate 45-1 and the House 82-14. The bill provided a state tax credit for solar energy projects equal to half of the federal credit, or 15 percent, up to $3,000 dollars per homeowner and $15,000 dollars for a business. At the time, taxpayers were limited to taking one credit. Overall, tax credits were capped at $1.5 million dollars per year, stated Senator Hogg.

As a result, the tax credit has spurred a rapid growth of solar projects around the state. As of June 13th, 2014, a total of 739 solar projects worth $28,880,713 dollars in investment have occurred. $3,430,502 dollars of tax credits were rewarded. Below is a chart that reflects the year-to-year growth of solar projects using the same state tax credit:

YEAR PROJECTS INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT

  • In 2012 there were 201 projects with an investment of $5,775,519 and tax credits of $650,914
  • In 2013 there were 282 projects with an investment of $12,955,807 and tax credits of $1,499,346
  • In 2014* there were 256 projects with an investment of $10,149,377 and tax credits of $1,280,243

*as of 6/13/14 – less than half the year Source: Iowa Department of Revenue

According to Senator Hogg, on the 27th of March, 2014, the Iowa Senate passed SF2340 to expand the solar energy tax credits by a unanimous bipartisan 46-0 vote. The Iowa House “receded” from its proposed amendment and passed SF2340 on the 25th of April, 2014, by a near-unanimous bipartisan vote of 88-4. The Governor signed SF2340 on May 30th, 2014.

SF2340 increases Iowa’s solar energy tax credit from $3,000 dollars to $5,000 dollars for homeowners and from $15,000 dollars to $20,000 dollars for businesses. They did this by increasing the state tax credit to 60 percent of the federal credit which increased from 15 percent to 18 percent. They tripled the overall cap for tax credits from $1.5 million to $4.5 million per year. SF2340 allows taxpayers to claim multiple credits for multiple projects at different locations around the state.

Hogg said that the recently expanded state solar credits will help Iowa homeowners, farmers and businesses invest in solar power.

On Saturday, the 21st of June, Hogg kicked off events at the IBEW Local 405 headquarters on Wiley Blvd. on Cedar Rapids South West side. IBEW installed an 11.1 kilowatt solar power system that has generated 6,280 kWh so far in 2014. The event featured Rich Goode, Assistant Business Manager for Local 405 who explained how the generating facility has helped to reduce the organizations’ carbon footprint.

Other speakers included Renate Bernstein, a local homeowner who installed solar panels on her roof several years ago to help reduce electrical usage and then again early this year she installed solar panels to heat water to reduce her water bill. She expects the systems to pay for themselves within the next 7 to 10 years. So far, she hasn’t paid an electrical bill for quite some time. Any unused power is credited to her account at the power company.

Emy Sautter, Ecological Coordinator, at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, located in Hiawatha, Iowa, talked about how the center built the states’ biggest array in 2008. At the time each panel cost $11,000 dollars, this included instillation and now the price has dropped to $3,600 dollars, a much more reasonable price and hopefully as technology advances the costs will come down even more.

Unless you are a qualified solar installer this isn’t something you should try and do on your own over of the weekend. When the solar panel package is open, the panel starts to produce energy and there is a risk of getting an electrical shock when you handle the panel. Another concern is your house must face the south to get the maximum amount of daylight per day. Your installer must have the right equipment to install the panels on your roof. There are items that the panels need to be hooked up to in order for the panels to work properly.
Once the system is up and running your electrical costs should start to drop!