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Environmental official helps spread solar power in Linn County

James Hodina takes work home with him

James Hodina, environmental manager with Linn County Public Health, stands Wednesday outside his home in Cedar Rapids, where his family recently had a solar energy system installed. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
James Hodina, environmental manager with Linn County Public Health, stands Wednesday outside his home in Cedar Rapids, where his family recently had a solar energy system installed. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — James Hodina, the environmental manager with Linn County Public Health, helped this year with the Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County program. The program, which began earlier this summer and concluded at the end of September, aimed to increase private solar energy installations throughout the county with incentives.

Q: How do you feel about the overall investment/participation in the Solarize program?

A: The program has far exceeded our expectations. We set four tiers for pricing discounts. Our most optimistic goal was to have 350 kW of installed solar power through the program. We are crushing that goal with over 600 kW of solar power contracted for installation.

Q: Did anything surprise you as this program unfolded?

A: Our Solarize Cedar Rapids & Linn County team was pleased that we had so many people show up at our first few “Solar Power Hour” educational events. But we thought that may taper off after we attracted the early adopters of solar power. That did not happen — people just kept coming. After 20 Solar Power Hours, nearly 500 people had attended and/or signed up for information on our website. Finally, we did not expect as many of the participants to be outside Cedar Rapids. Of the 103 signed contracts, 55 were other municipal or rural Linn County residents.

Q: Solarize investments nearly doubled the 350 kW goal. How will that impact program participants?

A: We estimate that the 103 participants will save over $70,000 in utility costs their first year. The benefits to the environment are equally impressive, as we calculate that over 1 million pounds of CO2 and 280,000 gallons of water that will be offset annually by using this renewable source of energy rather than fossil fuel generated electricity.

Q: What makes the Solarize program an important venture for the county?

A: Linn County Public Health is a steward of air quality in Linn County as we administer the local requirements set forth in federal and state law. Adopting electric generation through renewable zero emissions sources such as solar power reduces pollution, improves the air quality and the resulting health of our community. This is core to our mission to promote healthy living and protect the environment.

Q: I understand you are one of the 103 customers who participated in the program. Why did you feel this was something you wanted to do?

A: First, this was a family decision. The installation on our home has an eight-year payback and so it makes financial sense for us to do. As environmental manager for Linn County Public Health, it is important to lead by example, too. Last year, I purchased a plug-in electric hybrid car. Again, that made sense finically as well as helping me meet my social responsibilities to the community.

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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