Community

Solar energy program again being offered in Johnson County, West Branch

The Prairie Lakes Solar Garden has 6,516 solar panels on eight acres of Prairie Lakes Park in Cedar Falls, generating en
The Prairie Lakes Solar Garden has 6,516 solar panels on eight acres of Prairie Lakes Park in Cedar Falls, generating enough power annually to power 275 homes. Shot on Friday, May 12, 2017. (The Gazette file photo)

Residents in Johnson County and the city of West Branch can learn about energy efficiency and solar energy as well as have an opportunity to get an affordable solar array for their home, farm or business through the Solarize Johnson County 2020 program. The program is based on an initial discounted base price and then additional discounts are provided to all participating households as certain thresholds are met.

As in 2018, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) has partnered with a local installer, Johnson County and area cities to offer free educational sessions and discount options. This year’s program will be offered remotely through live webinars (Solar Power Hours) beginning with the launch at 1 p.m. Thursday through solarizejohnsoncounty.org.

Area residents also can visit the website for information on additional Solar Power Hour webinars and sign up for an estimate, or to receive general program updates. The installer selected for this year’s program is Eagle Point Solar, which is based in Eastern Iowa and has offices in the county.

Solarize Johnson County 2020 builds on the success of the 2018 program, during which nearly 670 area residents attended a Solar Power Hour and 180 households added a collective 1.1 megawatts of clean solar energy. That program has been MREA’s most successful program to date among the 34 it has hosted throughout the Midwest.

“The Solarize Johnson County program exceeded our expectations in 2018, and even during this difficult time, we thought it was important to again raise renewable energy awareness and provide saving opportunities to county residents,” said Rod Sullivan, chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

County departments involved in the 2020 program are Planning, Development and Sustainability, Public Health and Conservation. The nine partner cities include Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Shueyville, Solon and West Branch, all of which participated in 2018, and new municipal partners Hills, Lone Tree and University Heights.

“It’s a great show of support to have nine cities joining Solarize Johnson County as repeat or new partners,” said Becky Soglin, sustainability coordinator for the county. “And regardless of whether a city is a formal partner, residents from anywhere in the county are welcome to attend the educational events and are eligible for the discounts.”

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Soglin and MREA Solar Program Director Peter Murphy, noted renewable solar can help grow jobs and provide savings to homeowners.

“Recently many have become acutely aware of their energy usage as they have been spending so much time at home,” Murphy said. “Never have folks’ electricity bills been more top of mind, and solar can help lower folks’ energy bills and improve their quality of life.”

Solarize Johnson County is administered by MREA at no cost to the county. In addition to the website www.solarizejohnsoncounty.org, program information is available through Facebook at www.facebook.com/solarizejohnsoncounty.

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