BY KELLY MADSEN | IOWA ENERGY CENTER
While Iowa is well established as a leader of wind energy and biofuel markets, another key renewable energy option may be poised for growth. Iowa’s solar energy market is likely picking up due to high incentives, low costs, and receptive community members.
“Solar growth in Iowa is where wind was in the first decade of the 200s,” said Bill Haman, renewable energy program manager at the Iowa Energy Center during an interview with Midwest Energy News. “We saw an explosion in wind.” Iowa’s solar market has yet to “explode” as it only makes up a fraction of the state’s overall energy mix. At the end of 2012, installed solar made up 1 MW compared to wind’s 5,000 MW.
Even though solar currently accounts for a small percentage of the state’s energy, there is momentum building for solar. Homeowners, farmers, businesses, at least one school district are choosing solar, and several municipal utilities and rural electric co-ops are offering solar as an option for their customers.
“Incentives are at an all-time high, and costs are at an all-time low,” Haman said. The cost per watt is between $3 and $3.50 now, compared to a range of about $7 and $10 several years ago, and typically pay for themselves within a decade now, given federal and state tax credits, and Alliant Energy rebates.
Alliant Energy’s Renewable Rebates for Iowa Residential Customers, which runs through the end of 2013, offers subsidies for small, on-site renewable energy projects. In just the last year, the number of home and business owners in the state seeking Alliant Energy’s subsidies has increased dramatically, as many customers don’t want to miss opportunities for solar rebates.
“We (installed) seven systems in the last month,” said Michelle Wei, certified solar panel installer at GWA International. “That’s definitely much more than we did last year. Since April or May, we’ve been installing nonstop.”
For home or business owners interested in starting their own solar or other alternative energy projects, the Iowa Energy Center offers the Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP). Learn more about AERLP funding opportunities here.
Move over wind? Solar energy market ‘exploding’ in Iowa, Midwest Energy News