OPINION

State Supreme Court unlocks solar opportunity for Iowa

A new day is dawning for solar power in Iowa. And that means a stronger economy, a healthier environment, and more energy options for Iowa families, businesses, schools and governmental entities.

Thanks to a recent state Supreme Court decision, Iowa consumers can more easily make the switch to powering their property with clean, renewable solar energy — and all without making a big up-front investment.

The court’s ruling cleared the way for third-party power purchase agreements. Now any energy-consuming entity can take advantage of the economic, environmental, and intrinsic benefits of solar on their roof or grounds by agreeing to buy the power those panels produce from the third party owner. This is a financing mechanism that is available to consumers in many other states.

I am not neutral on this issue. My business, Eagle Point Solar, won the Supreme Court case. This is not only good for my company, it’s also good for the overall solar energy industry and the environment.

It is also good news for Iowa.

Expanding solar options means jobs — the kind of jobs that can’t be outsourced to another state or country. Take my company, for example: Eagle Point has created 18 jobs in four years. And we expect to hire as many as two dozen installers over the next two years, who will earn good wages and benefits.

Across the state, other solar businesses are planning the same sort of ramp-up. More jobs, fresh investment, and a healthier business climate will follow. And some of the billions of dollars we now send to other states to buy coal to generate electricity will stay in Iowa instead, developing and generating clean, local solar power. With distributed solar generation we are keeping the economics local within the state, not sending our energy dollars elsewhere.

For energy customers who don’t have the money or expertise to buy, install and operate their own solar arrays, power purchase agreements help open the door to solar power as a more viable option. Families, businesses, churches, schools and towns all now have greater freedom of choice to go solar.

Power purchase agreements lock in long-term pricing for up to 25 years, hedging customers from energy price spikes and helping with budget planning. Producing energy on-site takes pressure off the grid, avoids transmission losses and diversifies our state’s power sources.

More solar energy also means less reliance on old-fashioned coal-fired power plants. That translates into a boost in homegrown renewable energy and clean local power, which will promote cleaner, healthier air and help address climate change.

Iowa is well positioned to benefit. The same solar window that enables crops to grow is why solar power in Iowa is so effective. One small example: I put a solar array on my home that, in the summertime, produces as much energy as the house uses — even including charging an electric car along with lighting, TVs, two HVAC systems, a washer/dryer and all the other appliances and electronics in the house.

Of course, we have cloudy days too. And I understand that some people might be skeptical of solar power. But consider this: a decade or two back, who would have believed Iowa would now be getting 27 percent of its electricity from wind power?

Just as the state’s wind power boom has brought jobs and investment, expanding solar power will mean more opportunity for all — and a cleaner environment, too.

• Barry Shear is President of Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar, which deploys and installs American-manufactured solar photovoltaic systems throughout Iowa and the Midwest. Comments: 563-582-4044

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