It seems using solar energy to cut down on costs is gaining popularity in Dubuque.
Eagle Point Solar and CSI Sun are doing numerous installations around town.
According to Southern Energy Management, photovoltaic systems use solar panels to harness energy from the sun to generate electricity for a home. Systems are designed to generate the maximum amount of electricity using available space on the roof or property.
The size and output of a system depends on an individual’s energy goals and budget.
In Iowa, there are incentives, both state and federal. According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, Senate File 2342, which was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2012, provides for an Iowa income tax credit for solar energy systems installed on property in the state.
The tax credit applies retroactively to Jan.1, 2012, for tax years beginning on or after that date. The credit is not refundable, but any credit in excess of the tax liability can be credited to the following 10 tax years.
The solar energy system must be placed in service between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2017, to be eligible for the credit. The credit can’t exceed $3,000.
“This is good,” said Barry Shear, Eagle Point Solar president and CEO. “You’re self-generating your own energy for free, and doing the right thing environmentally.”
Shear explained solar energy reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We, as responsible citizens of our planet, should not use the atmosphere as a sewer for our energy,” he said.
Environmental benefits aside, photovoltaic systems are money savers. CSI Sun provides solar installations in Wisconsin, northwest Illinois and eastern Iowa.
“When you consider the incentives and the cost of installing the project, it hits an intersecting point where the electricity starts paying for the equipment,” said George Breiwa, of CSI Sun, in Highland, Wis. “You take an investment spread over seven years, take advantage of tax credits and the system pays for itself. You have free electricity. It’s a significant return on your investment.”
Breiwa advises residential power consumers to investigate a solar system for the cost savings.
“It’s wise to do it while the subsidization (both state and federal) is available,” he said.
Todd Timmerman, who owns Timmerman’s Talents in rural Platteville, Wis., agrees.
“The issue for most of my clients, either home owners or businesses, is the fact that they are locking in their electrical cost for the life of the system, which will be multiple generations for properly installed photovoltaic systems,” he said.
Consumers, Timmerman adds, are increasingly conscious about their finances.
“Money is tight and energy usage is one of the last ways that people have to reduce their monthly expenses,” he said. “When people put a system in, this eliminates one bill every month. It keeps money in our local communities. This the real job creation — not the production of the equipment or the installation of the equipment, but the savings to the consumer for decades to come.”
Timmerman cites the ease of installing a residential solar system.
“You look at your usage, reduce what you can, size the system to meet the customer’s needs and budget and then do the interconnection paperwork for the utility and the local permitting,” he said.
“Design is really the only issue, that being setting up the system to get the customer the most out of the money they spend.”
Residential installations have increased during the past three years, Timmerman added. The largest increase has been in battery-based systems.
It means that if a homeowner has a bank of batteries and if the utility line goes down, the emergency loads stay on.
“Things like your refrigerator, furnace and lights stay on and you do not have to use a back-up generator to run them,” he said.
Shear hopes and expects the solar growth to continue. A bill was recently introduced in the Iowa Senate that would provide a significant boost to the production of solar energy. It would require the state’s utilities to produce a specified amount of solar power by 2020.
Under current law, Iowa’s utilities must produce at least 105 megawatts of electricity using any combination of renewable energies such as solar, wind and hydroelectric. The new bill would require all of that production to come from solar.
A recently published study by the Iowa Environmental Council suggests Iowa ranks among the top third of states in the technical potential for the production of solar power.
“This is an excellent bill and I’m really excited,” Shear said.