Infrastructure & Environment

Iowa's Solar Power Could Outshine Florida's, Report Shows

January 31, 2014

The sun could power more of Iowa’s energy needs, with solar potential that exceeds sunny states like Florida, Georgia and Utah, a new report shows.

“The potential for solar in Iowa is quite significant,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, the Des Moines group that released the report Thursday looking at solar energy in Iowa.

“There are a number of important benefits that we’ve seen from wind that can be true for solar as well — from cleaner air and water to more jobs and more economic investment. ... It’s time to catch up,” Baer said.

Iowa could create an average of 2,500 jobs annually if it added 300 megawatts of solar energy over the next five years, the report says. Baer said 300 megawatts would be enough energy to power 39,000 homes for a year.

The study comes as Iowans are beginning to embrace solar energy. For example, Iowa’s $1.5 million solar tax credit program was maxed out last year, and the state is carrying over $471,000 in tax credit requests into this year. The tax credits are designed to spark investment in building solar arrays.

Baer said lawmakers should consider expanding the tax credits and making them refundable, so cities, schools and universities could benefit from the incentives.

At the same time, the Iowa Supreme Court is considering a case in which Iowa’s utilities are challenging whether a Dubuque company can sell solar power to the eastern Iowa city.

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