Solar program saves money for residents


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Katin

Solar panels are seen outside of the Johnson County Administration Building on April 23, 2018. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

A new area program aims to educate people about an energy source 93 million miles away.

Iowa City, along with five other towns, will partner with Johnson County to create a group-purchasing program for residential solar, Solarize Johnson County.

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association hosts the group, and it will use Moxie Solar, a solar installer of residential, commercial, and agricultural solar-power arrays based in North Liberty, for the installation.

Johnson County Sustainability Coordinator Becky Soglin said the Renewable Energy Association has done many similar group-purchasing programs in the past, such as one in Linn County.

“We thought it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of its expert guidance and bring this opportunity to Johnson County,” she said.

Soglin also noted the solar arrays the county has on its Health and Human Services Building, Secondary Roads Shop, Secondary Roads Fleet Maintenance Building and Wash Bay, and Administration Building. County officials want to give residents the same opportunity they had to help the environment and reduce costs, she said.

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As part of the project, and to educate residents about solar, free Solar Power Hours will be offered starting Thursday and ending Aug. 2. Each event will have a different location, moving among each of the six partner sites.

The University of Iowa Sustainability Office will host two of the events, on June 6 and 13. UI sustainability communications specialist George McCrory said office officials are open to anyone interested in the project who wants to know more about solar energy.

“It’s an outreach activity … showing that we’re committed to these types of projects,” he said.

Solar power has become a feature on some of the UI buildings, such as the Seamans Center Annex Building and the Cambus barn. McCrory said solar is an unlimited power supply, and for residents, it helps homes become more self-sufficient.

Amy Foster, the stormwater coordinator for Coralville, said the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the installer will be at the events to educate people on solar and answer any questions they might have. Residents will also have the chance to sign up for a free estimate for their residences.

Foster said the group approach to solar will help save residents money in a couple different ways. By only using one installer, labor costs will be lowered, and buying in bulk always saves money. She said she hopes for a quick turnaround on installment.

“The hope is to be able to provide a little bit lower cost system for residents by doing this collaborative approach to installing solar,” she said.

Solar won’t work on every property, and homes usually aren’t able to use solar as their only source of power, Soglin said, but it will still make a difference for both the environment and people’s wallets.

“Supporting renewable energy is always an important thing, but the main reason I think we’re going with this program is to reduce costs for these residential installations,” Foster said.

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