Iowa is already a leader in wind energy and can use the same road map to become a leader in solar energy as well, said Governor Terry Branstad, addressing solar industry leaders April 9 in the statehouse rotunda.
“I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy items in our state,” the Governor said, nothing that he and his staff are closely watching SF2340, a bill to expand Iowa’s solar tax credit pending in the legislature and are “hopeful” about its prospects.
The Governor made his remarks alongside Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey during Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa’s Solar Energy Trade Association, ISETA.
The Governor made his remarks as solar energy continues to show strong growth in Iowa, generating strong interest from electric customers around the state. Secretary Northey and other lawmakers had the opportunity to see that growth up close on a tour of farm and rural solar installations held in Washington County on March 21. Watch coverage of the tour from KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids to learn how solar energy benefits farmers.
At the statehouse Wednesday, Secretary Northey also expressed support for expanding Iowa’s tax credit and reflected on his conversations with farmers in Washington County.
“All of them are excited about [solar],” he said. “It’s working the way they wanted it to work; they’re seeing the numbers they thought they wanted to see.”
The March tour was the fourth in a series hosted by local legislators and sponsored by the Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and ISETA. Most recently, in November, legislators attended a tour of Des Moines-area installations.
Many Iowa lawmakers are taking note of solar energy’s promise in the state. The bill to triple Iowa’s solar energy tax credit, SF2340, passed the Iowa Senate unanimously on March 27.
Soon after, two Senators, Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) and Mike Breitbach, (R-Strawberry Point), explained their support of the bill in a Des Moines Register op-ed:
“Clean local power is something all kinds of Iowans can agree on — families, farmers and businesspeople; rural residents and city dwellers; even Republicans and Democrats.” … “Iowans recognize the growing potential to save money while generating power where they live and work. Lawmakers are realizing tehy can help. Together, we can build a brighter energy future for Iowa — and a stronger economy as well.”
Since Governor Branstad signed Iowa’s solar tax credit into law in 2012, $2.84 million through the program has supported 622 solar projects worth more than $24 million.
Demand for the tax credit has dramatically increased in the last year, more than doubling from 2012 to 2013, and exceeding the tax credit program’s cap by almost $700,000.
Strong demand for tax credits is just one piece of evidence that Iowa’s use of solar is taking off. Already, an Iowa Environmental Council analysis of utility records for our report Real Potential, Ready Today: Solar Energy in Iowa showed that the number of solar energy installations connected in Alliant and MidAmerican Energy’s service territories grew from fewer than ten in 2009 to more than 80 in 2012.
As a result of this growth, solar installers are seeing increasing interest from customers. The Solar Foundation estimates the number of solar jobs in Iowa more than tripled from 210 in 2012 to 680 in 2013.
During the Iowa Senate’s debate on SF2340, Iowa Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) told a story about just how much growth has occurred in the solar industry in a very short period of time. Six years ago, Hogg said, the largest Iowa array was a 7 kW array at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. He described the industry’s growth since:
“Hundreds of businesses, farmers and homeowners across the state have systems that are 7 kilowatts or larger. Hundreds. The largest photovoltaic array in Iowa is at Luther College, in Senator Breitbach’s district, 280 kilowatts 40 times larger. And later this year, in Senator Greiner’s district, Farmers Electric Co-op is going to break ground on an 800 kilowatt unit, more than 100 times larger than what just less than six years ago was the largest array in our state.”
Increasing Iowa’s use of solar energy is an important part of boosting the state’s overall use of clean energy, yet even with favorable policy and continued growth in the industry, Iowa has tapped only a small part of solar energy’s potential for our state. In fact, the total amount of energy Iowa could produce from solar panels exceeds the state’s total energy use by more than 150 times over.