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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PA School District now has Solar Panels Installed in Five Schools

School Solar PanelsPennsylvania is making progress in the journey toward using a larger percentage of renewable sources to provide electricity for the state. State and federal incentives will help the requirements in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) to be fulfilled. A recent milestone was reached with the completion of projects at five PA schools to have solar panels built and operated; the project which focused on the Bethlehem Area School District was funded with $1.84 million in solar grants.

In late 2010 the school district broke ground on the project which was entirely grant-funded. A focus of the design of each installation involved minimizing disturbance of neighbors.

With all projects completed, five of the 22 schools in Bethlehem Area School District now have solar panels. The panels are producing the amount of electricity that was estimated, according to District engineer Arif Fazil of D’Huy Engineering Inc. In some cases, 100% of building electricity is now provided by solar power

At East Mills Middle School, approximately 40% of the school’s energy needs are produced by roof-mounted panels. Ground solar installations at the smaller elementary level buildings there generate most of the electricity needs of the three buildings.

Fazil said that approximately 70% of Spring Garden Elementary School’s electricity is provided by solar. Farmersville and James Buchanan elementary schools are practically 100% solar-powered.

There were doubts that solar canopies were a good idea at Freedom High School; some suspected that they would be vandalized. So far, those predictions have proved to be wrong, though there has been some support-pole graffiti. The parking lot solar canopies produce up to 15% of the school’s electricity needs.

Bethlehem school district’s director of facilities and plant operations Mark Stein spoke well of the solar program and the fact that two schools are almost off the grid altogether.

The new solar panels produce approximately 5% of the energy consumed district-wide, which Fazil acknowledges is a good start but not huge progress.

Stein pointed out that the solar provision is just a small part of the district-wide electricity portfolio.

Other schools in Pennsylvania are tapping into the sun’s energy. In Upper Nazareth Township the Nazareth Area Middle School has a solar power system that produces 574-kilowatts. The Nazareth Area Intermediate School has a 600-kilowatt system.

Progress is good but to meet the alternative energy standards, there must be ongoing progress.

PA Solar StorePA suppliers of electricity are required to purchase solar alternative energy credits (SAECs); if there are shortfalls in SAECs, the utility companies must pay a Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP). The SACPs are calculated to cost 200% times the sum of the market value of SAECs, which is a huge incentive to meet their quota. This law provides incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels. The average market value for SAECs in 2013 has ranged from about $40 to about $120, which shows how significant variations can be.

Many advocates of solar energy are excited to see what the next big solar project will be for Pennsylvania, while the programs in place, such as the above-mentioned Bethlehem schools, continue to take advantage of clean energy from the sun.

If you live in Pennsylvania, contact Tall Pines Farm Solar Store to find out more about how you can take advantage of solar energy.

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A New Minnesota Law is Set to Aggressively Propel Solar Growth

Minnesota Solar BillA game-changing new energy bill which was signed into law by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in May of this year has gained a great deal of attention. If requirements outlined in the bill are met, solar generation in the state will increase more than thirty-fold by 2020. The new solar electricity standard for large utilities in Minnesota is the news creating the biggest stir; the requirement will be 1.5% of energy production by 2020, which is on top of the 25% renewables by 2025 mandate for large utility companies.

Other parts of the new law arguably carry as much impact as the new solar requirements, such as net-metering reforms, expanded incentives, and the creation of shared community solar gardens.

Minnesota’s utilities currently generate about 13 megawatts of solar power. For the new solar requirement to be met, an estimated 450 megawatts of solar power must be added to investor-owned utility systems. This endeavor seems staggering in scope. Fortunately, the bill also provides direction for how to achieve these lofty goals.

Extension of Solar Rebates

Part of the law mandates that at least one-tenth of new solar generation must come from small solar systems which produce up to 20 kilowatts. To ensure financing of these needed installations, the law extended a rebate program which Xcel Energy was phasing out by the end of this year. The utility company, however, has been ordered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to continue the rebate program through 2015. It’s also mandated that a similar incentive will remain in place until 2018.

Reward-based Solar Incentives

There is a change regarding rebates, and it’s designed to ensure that solar systems are as productive as possible. Rather than receiving rebates upfront, rebate amounts will be based on the amount of solar electricity produced.

Community Solar Gardens

Experts have estimated that only about one-third of the homeowners in Solar GardenMinnesota have rooftops suitable for installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Some of the issues which create the problems include rooftops that aren’t strong enough or sunny enough or don’t have the right kind of angle. An exciting new program requires utility companies to create community solar gardens. Customers will be able to buy individual solar panels which are set up as part of community solar installations. The electricity generated by each solar panel is credited to the owner, as though it were on their own rooftops.

Community solar programs aren’t a new idea; New Mexico and Colorado have already been utilizing solar gardens.

Increased Net Metering Cap

The net metering cap in Minnesota was lifted in the new law, which makes it easier for customers of investor-owned utilities to connect larger solar installations to the grid. The previous 40-kilowatt capacity has been increased to 1,000 kilowatts. Net metering is basically a policy which standardizes utility hook-ups and payments for all customer-owned generation which fits the criteria. Companies have been deterred from building larger solar systems because of the artificial cap on commercial development of solar, but the new law is expected to change that.

Not everyone is a fan of the new legislation. For instance, utility companies have expressed concern that these new mandates demand too much too quickly. Others are looking forward to the positive impact an explosive increase in solar installations can have on the state’s economy.

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Vermont Towns Consider Solar Projects to Help with the State’s Lofty Goal

Vermont Solar Energy In 2011 the Vermont Department of Public Service announced an energy plan which calls for 90% of Vermont’s energy to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2050. This plan is ambitious no matter how you look at it, but perhaps especially when you consider that the 2008 energy plan aimed for just 25% renewable energy in the state by 2050. Studies have shown that reaching the 90% goal would require a much quicker transition than what is already occurring, but anything can happen. Some towns in Vermont are making plans which represent the possibilities for greater growth of renewable energy sources.

A study on Vermont’s progress examined the interim home energy efficiency goal for 2020. The study found that the state is currently on pace to reach only half the goal of weatherizing 80,000 homes over the next seven years. To sum up the final conclusion of the study, Vermont has 3 million renewable megawatt hours and in the next 37 years has 18 million more to go, which seems too far a stretch to be possible.

But Vermont is taking decisive steps to move more homeowners and businesses toward using renewable energy sources, such as:

  • Becoming the first Northeastern state to implement a feed-in tariff in order to promote the development of renewable energy;
  • Eliminating the requirement of permits for people to install solar systems 5 kilowatts and smaller;
  • Approving a wind farm, in spite of the controversial nature of the plans;
  • Being the U.S. leader in energy efficiency investments, which have reduced electricity use by 2% per year.

Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont expressed his belief that changing the way we produce and use energy is the most important challenge and opportunity facing Vermont and the world. He fully believes in the significant benefits that transitioning to renewables will provide to the state, such as:

  • Fostering economic independence and security by enhancing local economic activity, reducing total energy costs for the people of Vermont, and creating jobs;
  • Protecting the environment by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Increasing involvement and investment in communities by connecting them to local energy sources.

In keeping with the optimism expressed by the Governor and many other legislators in Vermont, various towns in the state are making plans for using more solar energy. Vermont Solar Store

The Energy Committee in Norwich is making preliminary plans for a project which will generate electricity for municipal buildings with a clean energy source and could moderately cut the town’s electric bill.

The committee members refer to the proposed project as “risk free” in that it would not add an additional burden to taxpayers. The plan is to get a developer to build a renewable energy project with the backing of independent investors and then allow the school district or other municipal buildings to use the power generated, thereby reducing their carbon footprint. The developer would also have a risk-free investment because municipalities are stable partners that won’t go out of business.Vermont Solar Store

The Norwich Energy Committee is actually trying to apply the same concept to their town that the state has, in switching to 90% renewables by 2050. The committee is promoting residential solar and finding success; 13 new solar electric installations were added in the town last year. The committee acknowledges that the number needs to be 30 installations per year.

Sharon and Thetford are two other Vermont towns making plans similar to what Norwich is planning, as far as trying to find developers to provide solar energy for city services.

The state and the towns of Vermont may have a lofty goal as regards renewable energy, but the important thing is that they are planning and working toward the goal. On the subject of planning, Warren Buffet, an American business magnate and successful inventor, said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Thanks to these big plans and more, the future in Vermont promises to be one in which the carbon footprint and energy bills will both be small.

Contact Friends of the Sun Solar Store or Home Comfort Warehouse Solar Store in Vermont to learn how you can take advantage of these new solar programs.

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