Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Iowa Dems Back $10 Million Solar, Wind Power Plan

Owners who install certain alternative energy systems in their businesses and homes would qualify for tax rebates under a $10 million package of incentives proposed Wednesday by Democrats in the Iowa Legislature.

The plan, which focuses on small solar or wind energy systems, would give homeowners rebates of as much as $3,000, and businesses could receive up to $15,000.

Democrats say the measure would provide $4 million to homeowners, which is enough for 1,300 projects. The $6 million for businesses would pay for 400 projects.

"Our goal is to help a new industry get going," said Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

Jochum argued that a focus on the wind energy industry in past years has led Iowa to become the second biggest wind-producing state in the nation, but much of that generating capacity is in large wind farms. The new focus will be on smaller projects that produce energy for individual homes and small businesses.

"This plan means work for the Iowa construction firms, plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors who will install and maintain small solar installations and small wind turbines," said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. "Each project will leverage additional federal tax credits."

The incentives would be added to the 30 percent federal tax credit given for such projects.

The proposal was announced at a Statehouse news conference, and the legislation is likely to move quickly. Its future is bright in the Senate but far murkier in the House, where Republicans have a 60-40 advantage and budget-cutting has dominated the opening weeks of the session.

"Where are you going to get the $10 million?" said Rep Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who sits on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. "We're cutting throughout state government, across the board."

At the news conference, Democrats pitched their idea as a job-creation plan and brought along business owners to make that case.Dave Krejchi, who heads Dalton Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Cedar Falls, and he said he's already installing solar water heating units. Among them is a project at the city's recreation center that kept two workers busy for months.

"We could have installed a lot more if there were more incentives," Krejchi said. "We believe solar is a growth industry."

James McCain Jr., who runs a small business in Des Moines that installs small solar and wind projects, said his company had revenues of $500,000 last year.

"We're on track to double that this year," said McCain. "This industry is new to Iowa."


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