Guest Columnist

Keep Iowa solar on growth path

A photovoltaic installer connects solar panels during installation of a system on a roof in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
A photovoltaic installer connects solar panels during installation of a system on a roof in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Iowa is well known for its robust wind industry, which supports thousands of jobs, contributes to economic activity throughout the state and provides Iowa families and businesses with some of the lowest electricity rates in the Midwest.

Iowa’s wind successes are the product of a concerted effort by Iowa leaders, including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, to encourage and support wind development, and it’s working.

Iowa’s solar industry has equally robust potential, and the recent National Solar Jobs Census (recently released by the Solar Foundation) found that Iowa’s solar job market grew by 45 percent in 2017 — the third fastest growth in the nation.

That strong growth is a testament to smart and effective actions by state leaders. Many homeowners, farmers and businesses have invested in on-site solar installations thanks to a modest state tax credit. As a result, Iowa has more distributed solar energy installed than most states in the Midwest and Great Plains. You can find solar projects in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties and the economic benefits of that activity has been spread across the state.

Homeowners, farmers and businesses enjoy lower electricity bills thanks to on-site renewable energy, and because they feed excess energy back into the electric grid, expanding solar can help keep electricity rates low for all Iowa residents.

When you think of solar jobs, you probably picture workers with hard hats installing panels on buildings.

Jobs associated with installations are a big part of the solar workforce, but they don’t tell the whole story. Iowa workers are finding great job opportunities in sales and distribution, project design and development, research and development, financing and more.


It’s really exciting to see Iowa’s solar industry on such a strong trajectory, and we should do everything we can to keep it on this path. That means Iowa needs to promote and encourage solar development as it does wind.

Unfortunately, legislation under consideration by Iowa lawmakers would devastate Iowa’s growing solar industry. It makes no sense to allow utilities to discriminate against solar and charge homeowners, farmers and businesses who invest in on-site solar energy higher electricity rates. Penalizing homeowners and businesses who invest in Iowa’s solar industry and contribute to the creation of new solar jobs and economic opportunities is terrible public policy and would set Iowa’s solar industry back decades.

The legislation also significantly rolls back Iowa’s energy efficiency programs. As cost-effective as solar has become, the cheapest energy still is the energy that doesn’t need to be used. Recent amendments to Senate File 2311 have completed gutted the state’s energy efficiency program, which will raise rates for all Iowa consumers while the state’s largest energy users demand and use more energy.

We should encourage homeowners, farmers and businesses to invest in solar. Doing so means more diversified energy for Iowa’s electric grid, lowering rates for all of us, and more solar industry jobs and business development in communities throughout the state.

Ask your legislators to oppose the Energy Omnibus bill, or at a minimum, strike section 17, which will harm Iowa’s growing solar industry.

• Tim Dwight is president of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.


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