Cedar Rapids to be pilot city for solar energy initiative

Program aimed at reducing costs, creating uniform installation procedures

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Cedar Rapids was chosen to be a pilot city in a new state initiative that will explore increasing the use of solar energy.

The Iowa Statewide Solar Readiness Initiative will look at ways to promote uniform procedures associated with the installation of solar photovoltaic systems throughout the state.

It will be administered through the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s State Energy Office, which was recently awarded a $1.03 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Rooftop Solar Challenge II.

Des Moines, Dubuque, Floyd County and Linn County also will participate in the pilot program, along with two communities served by municipal electric utilities.

The IEDA also is partnering with the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities and the Iowa Environmental Council to implement the program.

As part of the program, the city of Cedar Rapids will look at policies and procedures to better facilitate the installation of solar panels for both commercial and residential buildings, said Megan Murphy, the utilities communications coordinator for the city of Cedar Rapids.

"Right now we are evaluating what we have," she said. "We want to make it easier, we're not sure if that means adding or subtracting (to city code)."

The city will also participate in educational outreach to teach residents about the possibilities and benefits of solar power.

The grant will be used to develop tools and resources specifically for use in Iowa and to increase solar awareness, according to a press release. The grant’s objectives include providing communities with resources related to planning and zoning, promoting the standardization of net metering and interconnection throughout the state, and identifying and evaluating policy options at the local and state levels to reduce costs of solar installation.

Murphy said she anticipates the process will be a collaborative one, and the city will talk regularly with both the state and other communities involved in the project.

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