Iowa Legislators Propose New Solar Wind Energy Rebates Spur Job Growth

Having spent my youth walking to school on my share of days with my shoulder into Iowa’s winds I am not surprised to hear there is new legislation proposed to spur wind and solar development in the Hawkeye state. The scale of interest for solar and wind energy in this state which is blossoming with future political and business leaders is impressive.

Legislators in the Iowa Senate have proposed using consumer rebates to encourage the installation of “small solar” and “small wind” in Iowa homes and businesses as a means to increase local job growth.

“State investment helped create the nation’s second largest wind industry in Iowa,” said Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque in a story published in Iowa senate, a member of the working group that proposed the plan. “Now state investment in small solar and small wind can grow Iowa Main Street businesses and create Iowa jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

Small solar and small wind refers to the on-site production of electricity and heat at homes and businesses. Legislators want to provide thousands of consumers with rebates of as much as $3,000 for homeowners and up to $15,000 for businesses in order to strengthen and expand this aspect of the Iowa renewable solar and wind energy economy.

“This solar and wind incentive plan means work for the Iowa construction firms, plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors and solar installers who will install and maintain small solar installations and small wind turbines,” said Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City. “Each project will leverage additional federal tax credits, bringing more money into Iowa and further encouraging Iowa consumers to switch to Iowa-based, clean energy technology.”

At $10 million, the solar and wind energy plan proposed by Senate Democrats is modest compared to that of other states. Legislators say, however, that Iowa’s history of clean energy innovation, worker training infrastructure, and abundant sunshine bode well for the future.

“This solar renewable economic development plan invests in projects and small businesses across the state,” said Jochum. “Our consumer rebates will be added to the 30% federal tax credit. Iowa is now home to many multimillion dollar wind farms. We should start now to build tens of thousands of small solar and small wind installations which will create jobs and economic activity all over Iowa, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and benefit our air and water.”

James McCain Jr., a small business owner from Des Moines, described his work installing small solar and wind projects.

“When I do a job, I’m always working with other Iowa small businesses,” McCain said. “I’m not a master electrician so I hire a local electrician. So I work with local electricians, plumbers, contractors, building inspectors, and so forth. Once we’re done, the people I’ve worked with are better able to serve this growing market.”

Dave Krejchi, owner of a plumbing, heating and cooling business in Cedar Falls, began doing solar hot water installations several years ago.

“We have enough sun in Iowa for solar to work and the grid-tied residential solar technology is proven. And these solar hot water installations are good for our contracting business. Installation of a solar thermal system for the city recreation center kept two of our plumbers employed for several months. That job was good for us and great for the city which is saving big bucks each month on heating costs,” said Krejchi.

The consumer rebate for small solar and small wind is the third Senate Democratic jobs and economic growth proposal of the 2011 session. Discussion continues on more ways to accelerate innovation for Iowa businesses.

Helping small solar and small wind means helping small business. Because Iowa is slipping behind other states in this area, most of the projects supported by this tax credit will also help Iowa tradespeople gain experience with new clean technology. The small businesses which make up the new Iowa Solar Small Wind Energy Trade Association report that they often work with local contractors, plumbers and electricians who have had no previous experience with small solar and small wind technology.

By increasing the solar education, skills and familiarity of Iowa small businesses with proven technology that can save consumers money, the legislation will help strengthen the economies of communities across the state.

State rebates fulfillment will be reinforced by existing federal tax credits. Existing federal tax credits will multiply the impact of the Iowa consumer rebates. The federal government is providing a personal tax credit is equal to 30% of the qualifying expenditures of a residential renewable energy system, including solar thermal, photovoltaic, and wind.

The unit must be put into use by January 1, 2016. There is no cap on the solar and wind installation energy credit and excess credit can be used against future personal tax liabilities in the next year.