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Solar group-buy program returns to Linn County

Solar panels are seen on the roof of SiteGen Solar/Paulson Electric in Cedar Rapids on May 31. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Solar panels are seen on the roof of SiteGen Solar/Paulson Electric in Cedar Rapids on May 31. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Area residents interested in participating in the Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County program are in luck — the solar group buy program is back for another round.

James Hodina, manager of environmental public health with Linn County Public Health, said the hope is the program — dubbed Grow Solar Linn County this year — catches any area residents who missed out last time.

“We wanted to give it a second round and see how many people are still out there looking for solar,” he said.

The program incentivized private solar development through volume purchasing prices. Essentially, the more people participate, the cheaper the installations become.

Thanks to decreasing solar prices, this year’s program will be even cheaper, Hodina added.

In 2017, participants in the program started at about $2.45 per watt, with prices dropping as more individuals joined the effort.

This year, the price starts at $2.12 per watt and could go as low as $1.99, if at least 350 kilowatts are purchased.

Hodina said the average home can take about five kilowatts and the first price decline will come after 50 kilowatts, or about 10 homes.

He did note that early participants still get to take part in the final discount in prices.

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“You don’t gain anything by waiting, you’ll always get those discounts — no matter when you buy in,” he said.

All told, Linn County’s 2017 program resulted in 599 kilowatts of installed solar among 102 properties.

Hodina said about half of 2017’s installations were in Cedar Rapids, but added the hope this year is to include more focus on outlying communities, such as Mount Vernon and Center Point.

“We thought we would do better at engaging the municipalities,” he said.

Participants have until Oct. 31 to participate in the program.

The program is offered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association program — with support from Linn County, Cedar Rapids, Marion, Mount Vernon, Center Point, the Nature Conservancy in Iowa, and Indian Creek Nature Center.

While the Midwest Renewable Energy Association contracted with North Liberty’s Moxie for the 2017 project, this year’s effort will be led by Eagle Point Solar and Paulson Electric/SiteGen Solar — which is headed by Tyler Olson, Cedar Rapids City Council member.

Interested individuals can take part in one of the program’s many free public meetings, dubbed Solar Power Hours.

Solar Power Hours

July 10: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Public Library, Whipple Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

July 16: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Falcon Civic Center, 137 Fourth St. N., Central City

July 17: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids

July 23: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Fairfax City Hall, Community Room, 300 80th St. Court, Fairfax

July 24: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Marion Public Library, 1095 Sixth Ave., Marion

July 30: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Kirkwood Linn County Regional Center, Room 100, 1770 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

Aug. 1: 6:30-7:30 p.m., New Pioneer Food Co-op, 3338 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

Aug. 6: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Springville Buresh Community Room, 264 Broadway St., Springville

Aug. 7: Noon-1 p.m., Metro Economic Alliance, multipurpose room, 501 First St. SE, Cedar Rapids

Aug. 13: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St. NW, Mount Vernon

Aug. 14: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Wickiup Hill Learning Center, 10260 Morris Rd., Toddville

Aug. 20: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Center Point Community Center, 720 Main St., Center Point

Aug. 22: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Linn County Farm Bureau, 1323 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

Aug. 27: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center with I-Renew, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

Aug. 29: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Thomas Park Safe Room, 343 Marion Blvd., Marion

Sept. 10: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St. NW, Mount Vernon

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Sept. 18: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Rd. SE., Cedar Rapids Sept. 21: 10-11 a.m., Cedar Rapids Library, Whipple Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE.

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