Sunday, March 2, 2014

Solar is a Bankable Investment for Lowa and the Nation

Tim Dwight
Solar power is happening in the state of Iowa! Anyone noticed the installers on rooftops bolting down record rates of solar modules? Look up. It’s happening.

And since our state is building a sustainable solar market, the Iowa Department of Economic Development just recently received a $1.03 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the adoption of solar.

Over the next year, Iowa will be developing a simplified process to integrate PV technology across the state as well as modeling community solar programs for Iowans who don’t own a viable rooftop or don’t need to purchase a full solar system. The program structure provides access for every Iowan to be involved in this exciting technology and investment.

Just after this announcement, the Iowa Utilities Board agreed, by Alliant Energy’s request, to lower its energy efficiency goals and completely eliminate its “Solar Rewards” program that has flourished the past three years. This program allowed Alliant Energy’s customers to use their own money in rebate incentives to save money, procure clean energy and create homegrown jobs.

The growth rate of the Iowa solar industry is compounding annually. We should increase funding to a growth market in our communities, not remove it.

Solar adoption in the U.S. is battling on many fronts. Recently the American Legislative Exchange Council started the argument that solar energy producers are “free riders” of the grid system. ALEC fails to mention that customers pay for grid infrastructure and that the $10,000 to $1 million-plus solar investment made by the customer increases grid stability, grid efficiency and energy security.

No one can take away the sun. The “free riders” have been utilities with public guaranteed rates of return on power investments and a monopolized energy market the past 100 years.

When a customer has no other choice for a product/service and is limited to one provider of that product/service, who then has a “free ride?” Times are changing and rapidly.

At the national level, the U.S. set a new record for solar installations in a quarter, 930 mega-watts. That’s one interconnection every 4 minutes. This is equivalent to the size of a nuclear reactor that takes years to build. Solar is doing it in three months and we’re just at the starting line.

One of Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives in Kalona, Farmer Electric, just signed the state’s first Power Purchase Agreement with a third party solar developer. We have a local REC utility investing in the benefits and opportunities of solar power.

Iowa wants solar. The Legislature passed and Gov. Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2342, a law that allows the Iowa taxpayer a tax credit for installing solar technology. Solar is a resource that’s clean, secure, robust and a massive economic engine.

So here’s what we say at the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association. Join the quest for “Photovoltaics.” It’s coming to a rooftop near you — to a building, a barn, a school, a church or 10 acres of megawatts by a farmer selling a kilowatt commodity just like corn, hogs, soybeans, etc.

Solar is bankable, and when all Americans realize they too can join the energy markets, it will happen faster than I learned how to pronounce “Photovoltaics.”

Tim Dwight is president of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.


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