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Adding solar panels to Linn County homes just got a little cheaper

Price drops after group purchasing program reaches milestone

Joseluis Corrales, solar installation technician for Eagle Point Solar, works on a ground wire on a solar array which will power the booster station off of Chandler Street SW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. (The Gazette)
Joseluis Corrales, solar installation technician for Eagle Point Solar, works on a ground wire on a solar array which will power the booster station off of Chandler Street SW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Solar power just got more affordable for Linn County residents.

Grow Solar Linn County, a group purchasing program meant to spur private solar development, reached its first major milestone of more than 50 kilowatts of residential solar power. The more people who buy in, the more affordable solar panel installations become.

The latest milestone of more than 50 kilowatts across nine homes has dropped the price from $2.12 to $2.09 per watt for a new system, said Jim Hodina, Linn County’s manager of environmental public health. The next milestone will be 150 kilowatts. The scale goes all the way up to 350 kilowatts of power, and the price will drop as low as $1.99.

A typical house averages 5 or 6 kilowatts. At $2.09 per watt, a 5-kilowatt project would cost $10,450.

“The pricing is really good,” Hodina said, adding that he purchased an installation personally in the previous group buy in 2017. “I have seen every penny of savings that was estimated in my initial program.”

The group rate extends through Oct. 31, and county leaders will hold outreach events through September for residents who are interested. Installations will continue through the end of the year or the beginning of 2020.

The program is offered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which is contracted with Eagle Point Solar and Paulson Electric/SiteGen Solar.

This is the second round of group buy-ins for Linn County. The first occurred in 2017 and started at $2.47. It resulted in 599 kilowatts across 102 properties.

“That is certainly farther than where we are at now. We would’ve certainly got the early adopters in that first round,” Hodina said.

But this is the time to purchase solar installations, Hodina said. The price this time around already is significantly lower than when the 2017 program started.

Federal solar tax incentives will drop from 30 percent to 26 percent after this year, and the state of Iowa’s incentive — which is half the federal level — will drop too.

The county has scheduled the following “Solar Power Hours” for residents who might be interested.

• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at Christ Episcopal Church, 220 40th St. NE, Cedar Rapids

• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St. West, Mount Vernon

• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Matthew 25/Groundswell, 201 Third Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids

• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids

• 10-11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Whipple Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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