CEDAR RAPIDS — A Linn County effort to “incentivize” private solar installations throughout the county has reached its first benchmark.
James Hodina, Linn County’s manager of environmental health, said this week the Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County program had reached nearly 85 kilowatts in contracted installations — spread out among 11 projects.
In addition, more than 40 residents have had site visits from North Liberty’s Moxie Solar, which has been contracted to install the solar arrays, and hundreds have attended the program’s many public meetings — dubbed Solar Power Hours — across the county, Hodina said.
“People are excited about it,” he said. “Some have been looking at solar for a while now, and this provided the incentive.”
In late July, Cedar Rapids residents Bill and Peggy Freeburg signed a contract for a 7.25 kW solar array on their home — which pushed the program past 50 kW in total investments, according to a news release.
“It felt like the right time,” Peggy Freeburg said. “We had thought about going solar in the past but didn’t know where to start. The Solarize program made it straightforward.”
Officials with the program, administered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at no cost to the city or county, say the price of individual solar projects will drop as more participants join the program, with customers saving on every kilowatt produced.
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“At the benchmarks of 50 kW, 150 kW, 250 kW and 350 kW, everyone in the program gets a rebate,” Peter Murphy, solar program manager at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, said in the release. “In other words, the more people who participate, the lower the cost for all.”
The program has received support from the city of Cedar Rapids, Linn County, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, Indian Creek Nature Center and climate change awareness group Iowa 350.
The program, which debuted in June, is the first of its kind in Iowa.
Residents wishing to install solar through the program have until Sept. 30 to participate. Additional information on the program, including times and locations of Solar Power Hours, can be found at growsolar.org/solarize-cedar-rapids-linn-county/#breadcrumbs.
Eric Holthaus, Cedar Rapids sustainability coordinator, said he hopes momentum for the program continues to build.
“We expect to meet that next threshold in a short amount of time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Linn County has been recognized by SolSmart, a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that recognizes local governments for reducing obstacles to energy development and making solar power cheaper and more accessible to homes and businesses.
Linn County is one of 78 communities and counties nationwide with the designation, and Holthaus said the city of Cedar Rapids should be on that list soon. Ames and Perry are the only other Iowa communities on the list.
“Solar, for a long time now, prices have been coming down ... and now that it’s become much more mainstream,” Holthaus said. “We want people’s experiences with solar to be as streamlined as possible.”
l Comments: (319) 339-3175; firstname.lastname@example.org
If You Go
To learn more about the Solarize Cedar Rapids & Linn County program, make plans to attend one of these upcoming Solar Power Hours programs:
l 6 p.m. today, Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids.
l 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Lion Bridge Brewing, 59 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids.
l 6 p.m. Aug. 10, Prairiewoods, 120 Boyson Road, Hiawatha.
l 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14, Cedar Rapids Downtown Library, Beems A, 450 Fifth Ave. SE.
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l 6:30 p.m. Aug. 17, Kirkwood Community College, Linn County Regional Center, 1770 Boyson Road, Hiawatha.
l 11:30 a.m. Aug. 23, Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, Cedar Rapids.
l 6 p.m. Aug. 29, Linn County Farm Bureau, 1323 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha.
l 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7, Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St. NW.
Additional information on the program can be found at growsolar.org/solarize-cedar-rapids-linn-county/#breadcrumbs.