Attention all Iowa Homeowners: Money-Saving Solar Incentives Abound

Solar Panel InstallationsFederal incentives are available to people in all 50 states, and they are intended to encourage people to make the switch to renewable energy sources. Iowa has additional advantages which will not only result in lower electricity costs for the long term, but they will also significantly cut the cost of solar installation. Among those benefits are Iowa state incentives as well as rebates and incentives from utility companies.

Going Solar is Smart

Iowa incentives and rebates aside for a moment, there are other undeniable benefits to installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on your rooftop; and it’s just smart to get in on them. Whether you live in Iowa, New Jersey, California, Wisconsin, or anywhere else, the following are great benefits of going solar:

  • Every month you can save money on your electric bill; and your savings begin immediately, even if you finance your solar PV system, in the majority of cases. In addition, your solar system pays for itself entirely over time.
  • Having solar panels helps to protect you against hikes in electricity rates. Every time the cost of gasoline increases, it’s like you are increasing your amount of savings by using solar energy. Over the past 30 years, utility rates have gone up, on average, 5% annually. In 2006 alone, some residential rates jumped as much as 55% in more than one state.
  • The value of your home is increased by $20,000 for every $1,000 reduction in annual electricity rates. Even if you are concerned you may be moving, a solar installation will pay off in the end.
  • You reduce the amount of air pollution, such as carbon dioxide emissions, when you use solar energy, which is 100% clean. Fewer power plants that produce dangerous gases would need to be built if more people were using solar electricity.
  • Solar helps achieve energy independence. The price stability of solar power is unaffected by the effects of natural disaster and instability of foreign oil sources. In addition, there is less strain on the public power grid when more people are drawing clean energy from the sun.

Two of Many Iowa Solar Incentives

A solar tax credit is available for solar PV and solar thermal systems in Iowa, thanks to Senate File 2342, signed on May 25, 2012, by Governor Branstad. The cap on the awards is $1.5 million, and the credits are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. The income tax credit is for solar energy systems which are installed on Iowa property. The following are a few details about how the tax credit is computed:

  • Dubuque Iowa Solar StoreFor resident properties: 50% of the solar-related federal residential energy efficient property credit provided in sections 48(a)(3)(A)(i) and 48(a)(3)(A)(ii) of the Internal Revenue Code, the maximum amount being $3,000.
  • For commercial & agricultural properties: 50% of the solar-related federal energy credit provided in sections 48(a)(3)(A)(i) and 48(a)(3)(A)(ii) of the Internal Revenue Code, for a maximum of $15,000.

There is a website which shows the long list of Iowa incentives and rebates for renewable energy such as solar on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies.

Contact our Iowa NASS store- Dubuque Solar Store– for help in sorting out rebates and incentives that may be available to you as you make the smart decision to switch to solar energy.

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The U.S. Solar Decathlon – October 3-13, 2013 – Sparks Excitement, Research, and Collaboration

Solar DecathlonIn 2002 the first Solar Decathlon was held on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The initial event, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and held biennially since 2005, took place at a time when the tragedy of 9/11 was still fresh on the minds of Americans, dependence on foreign energy sources was of primary concern, the cost of natural gas was rising steeply, and the state of California had just experienced a season of rolling blackouts. This year the U.S. Solar Decathlon will be held in California, for the first time not in Washington D.C. The locale may be different but the mission, purpose, and spark of inventiveness among college students directed toward advancing solar power usage provided by the event remain constant.

The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is three-fold:

  1. Provide students of varying educational pursuits with beneficial, rare training that serves as preparation to join the renewable energy workforce.
  2. Educate all involved about the how clean-energy products and innovative design solutions provide environmental benefits and opportunities to save money.
  3. Give the public a firsthand experience of the affordability and comfort of homes that combine energy-conscious construction and appliances with solar energy systems.

One of the exciting aspects of the Solar Decathlon is that this experimental program has initiated collaboration among students in numerous fields, such as sciences, engineering, communications, architecture, interior design, landscaping, and more. Their goal in coming together as competing teams is to create a solar-powered home that will be open to the public at the event; the home should be attractive, energy-efficient, solar-powered, and cost-effective. The team which does the best job of creating an affordable, visually appealing home that succeeds at maximum energy efficiency and optimal solar energy production will win the competition.

Huge benefits of the decathlon are that it encourages innovation, drives awareness of available solar technologies, nurtures growth in new markets, and encourages student integration among different fields.

There is no doubt that the U. S. Solar Decathlon has made an impact since its inception. For example:

  • Solar Decathlon 2007There are now Solar Decathlons in Europe and China.
  • With the participation of collegiate teams from across the U.S., the event puts the spotlight on the role of solar energy in changing the landscape of energy sources that are implemented in the states.
  • There have been nearly 17,000 collegiate participants since its inception.
  • The event has earned a worldwide reputation as a workplace development opportunity and successful educational program for students.
  • Through widespread media coverage, the Solar Decathlon has opened the eyes of tens of millions of consumers about the affordability, benefits, and availability of solar power solutions.
  • The event removes doubt that, in both solar deployment and education, the U.S. is truly a global competitor.

The Solar Decathlon will be held in Irvine, California, October 3 through 13 at the Orange County Great Park. Competition houses will be open to the public at no cost for eight days over two weekends. Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the solar-powered homes and learn how various solar-powered energy-saving features can help cut energy costs.

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Finally, Installation of Solar Panels at the White House is a Reality

Solar Panels on White House

As of August 2013, solar panels have been installed on the White House

In 2010, President Barack Obama’s then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a demonstration of a commitment to increasing renewable power would take place in the form of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar hot water being installed on the roof of the White House. Fast forward to now, August of 2013, and it has happened. It took 40 months, but solar panels are now installed on the White House roof. And, incidentally, business owners and homeowners across the U.S. have also installed solar on their rooftops since 2010 to the extent that solar power has quadrupled during Obama’s administration.

Advocates of solar energy, to a large extent, are more frustrated than congratulatory about the new White House solar panels. After all, as many see it, Obama has not provided an example of leadership to Americans by the way the solar project has been delayed. There are also many initiatives he could have implemented as President which would have made much more significant advancements to solar, many argue. And there is no denying that Obama is far more famous for the failure of Solyndra, a bankrupt solar manufacturing company which received a $535 million federal loan guarantee, than he is for an increase in U.S. solar installations.

While they can’t all be attributed to Obama, let’s look at various solar advancements which have taken place during his Presidential term:

  • The capacity for electricity generation with solar technologies is close to four times what it was when President Obama took office.
  • In 2012 alone, solar power capacity in the U.S. was increased by 3.3 gigawatts, which is a stunning amount. New solar power capacity that was added last year was greater than the previous three years combined – and they also marked great solar strides.
  • President George Bush signed an 8 year Investment Tax Credit into law in 2008, but few utilized the tax credit during his tenure due to the global recession that was underway at the time. The Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program (TGP) took the 30% investment tax credit and allowed the credit to be claimed as a grant for renewable energy project developers. In short, developers which did not have tax equity access were able to claim the tax credit at the startup of construction, which benefited the solar industry tremendously. In fact, in solar projects encompassing all 50 states, awards were made to about 44,000 domestic solar projects which leveraged over $7.17 billion in private sector investments as of September 2012.
  • Solar IncentivesIn spite of serious economic downturns in the U.S., the solar industry has grown enormously, due to the TGP, in large part.
  • It is estimated that the TGP has supported approximately 60,000 jobs in recent years.
  • Stimulus funding in the amount of $16 billion went to fund the pre-existing Loan Guarantee Programs of the U.S. Department of Energy. A full 87% of this huge sum of money backed loans mostly to solar and wind power generation projects. Only a small part of the funds funded technology start-ups such as Solyndra.

The story of solar power being installed at the White House has previously been a dismal one. For example, President Carter installed solar panels and President Reagan had them removed. Let’s hope the panels now installed are there to stay and that the current and future administrations will take a stronger lead in advancing a switch to solar power and other renewable energy sources.

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Nine Cities Join Forces to Streamline Solar Permits, and Project Permit Provides Help for All

Solar Energy System InstallationThere have been many hurdles to jump in the quest to switch to renewable sources of energy, and great strides have been made in the U.S. One challenge that remains in many regions is clearing the red tape involved with acquiring proper permits for the installation of solar panels. Nine cities in California have joined together for the express purpose of streamlining solar permits. There is also help available to everyone, thanks to a website and initiative called Project Permit devoted to the same purpose.

The solar industry has registered complaints for years about large disparities in the cost of solar permitting fees charged by California cities, whether for schools, businesses, churches, or homes. In addition to the cost issue, the amount of time required to maneuver through the bureaucracy of getting permits processed has been an obstruction and a source of frustration.

The good news is that nine East Bay cities have collaborated to make solar permitting a simpler process, an effort that is projected to save homeowners and contractors anywhere from $850 to $3,500 per solar installation. The strategy involves reducing the need to acquire outside engineering assistance in the cities of San Leandro, Richmond, Oakland, Hayward, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Albany, Alameda, and Berkeley. This team effort could have an even more widespread effect by serving as a blueprint for how to streamline the processing of energy permits related to other sustainable energy projects.

In pursuing a switch to solar power, it is not unusual for a homeowner or business owner to have to wait as long as four months simply for the solar permit. By standardizing the permitting process, the time delay should be reduced by at least 25%. When the entire process of getting solar energy systems installed is quicker and easier, the likelihood of customers recommending the experience to others will be much greater.

These cooperative East Bay cities aren’t the only ones to recognize the significance of improving the permitting system. Project Permit is a very helpful website providing valuable resources to help anyone in any community to put the wheels in motion to reduce the amount of red tape.

Project Permit provides a scoring system for solar permitting practices in municipalities throughout the U.S. and shares steps with local leaders and permitting offices for putting best practices in place.

For anyone who wants to help improve the solar permitting process in their town, Project Permit provides three easy steps to follow:

  1. Expanding Solar PV System InstallationsStart by checking to see whether or not the city/county where you live measures up to best practices. There is an interactive map on the website which will reveal their score.
  2. Download a “Simplifying Solar Permitting” packet, personalize it with your name and address, and add the mayor’s address. Send the packet to the mayor along with a fact sheet that’s also on the Project Permit website.
  3. Send the packet to the mayor. The website even provides email addresses for mayors across the U.S. Also email Project Permit, and your action will be followed up on with the mayor’s office.

The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly in recent years, but sometimes progress toward increasing solar installations is hindered by other factors. Complex and time-consuming permitting trips a lot of people up, and it’s great news for solar that many are working to cut the red tape.

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