How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar Power in Iowa
The Hawkeye state has always been big on renewable energy. Iowa has been a long-time leader in wind power generation, but now, with solar emerging as an affordable and efficient alternative to conventional energy—not to mention one that residents can own and manage themselves—taking control of your home’s electricity needs has never been easier.
The Iowa government is very supportive of new energy generation methods and provides incentives and rebates in the form of tax exemptions and credits that can seriously mitigate costs when you purchase your new solar system in the area. Additionally, several local utilities offer their own rebates for solar water heaters, so there are ways to save even if you can’t afford to purchase a large solar array at the moment.
Solar Productivity in Iowa
Iowa comes in somewhere near the middle of the pack in terms of solar productivity in the US. The Hawkeye State receives enough sunlight annually to give in a 0.89 rating on the UV index, a scale that ranks solar intensity from zero to two. That puts it 20th in the nation, with an average 4.8 solar radiation hours in Des Moines. Those are some respectable numbers; and, while you may not be going off-grid in your Iowa home anytime soon, you can still expect a huge deduction in your energy bills by installing a solar array in your home.
Solar Popularity in Iowa
In fact, many Iowans have already made the switch to solar. Industry estimates show Iowa with somewhere around 27 megawatts of solar power installed throughout the state—that’s enough to power 3,000 of the 1.2 million homes in the area. That may sound like a small number, but growth levels have really taken off here, and about 20 percent of that capacity was installed in 2015 alone. Like households all across America, homeowners are increasingly finding solar to be an affordable and environmental option for their home’s power needs.
Iowa Average Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Continuing on a trend, Iowans pay about median costs for electricity—at about 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour, homes here spend just slightly less than the national 12 cents average. Households here also use about the average amount of electricity—4,676 Btus per capita annually, compared to the US average of 4,566. That’s not an argument against incorporating renewables, however; like all parts of America, Iowans have seen their energy costs and consumption averages rise in the past 30 years, a trend that’s not expected to stop anytime soon. That means that investing in solar power may be a smart idea, now and thirty years from now.
Installing Solar in Iowa
A respectable 40 odd installers practice out of Iowa, meaning that homeowners here have plenty of options to choose from. Most contractors are based in the eastern part of the state, in or near Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Waterloo; however, there are many in Des Moines as well. Due to lower installation number in the state, larger companies like Sungevity and SolarCity do not operate here; however, many local installers offer quality contractor work in their place. One note if you live in the city of Dubuque, however: operators installing solar systems in this area must be licensed through the city, so ask to see a license before you proceed.
Iowa State Support
Most of the state government’s focus on renewables has been on wind-generated power; in fact, Iowa is one of the leading producers of wind power. That doesn’t mean that solar gets no love here, however. The state’s Mandatory Utility Green Power Option requires energy providers to offer a green power alternative for all customers throughout Iowa—regardless of the source. Individual provider programs must be approved by the Iowa Utilities Board to ensure that area plans meet the state’s goals for green power. Meanwhile the government here offers several incentives, in addition to net metering, that bolster installation numbers and set the tone for residents looking to invest in solar power for their homes.
Iowa State Solar Incentives
Most of Iowa’s incentives are organized at the state, rather than local level. There are a number of different incentives and loan programs for eligible residents:
Renewable Energy Equipment Sales Tax Exemption: All new solar equipment purchased by residents of Iowa is eligible for a state sales tax exemption. Eligible equipment includes solar PV systems, solar water heaters, solar pool heaters, and solar space heating systems. That represents a six percent savings for residents in the area.
Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program: Iowan residents can apply for a low-interest loan for the purchase of solar installations. There is a $50,000 limit on the total loan amount, with a maximum loan term of 20 years. Visit the loan program website for more information.
Net Metering: Net metering is offered to customers of Iowa’s two major regulated utilities, MidAmerican Energy and Interstate Power and Light. The state allows each utility to set limits on size and capacity at its discretion, so you’ll need to check with your provider for the details of each plan. Generally, however, systems should be no larger than 500 kilowatts, which is very large. Residents that purchase their power from unregulated utilities are not protected by legislation requiring net metering.
Solar Energy Systems Personal Tax Credit: The Iowa Department of Revenue offers a tax credit of 18 percent of system costs for each new residential solar PV installation. The maximum return cut off is $5,000. The department sets aside a million dollars for this incentive each year, and returns are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so once the total fund has been given away, no additional rebates are available until the beginning of the next year. That means that it will pay to prepare your taxes as early as possible if you are hoping to take advantage of this incentive.
Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Systems: Installing solar on your property increases your property values. Iowa residents are exempt from paying additional taxes on solar equipment for the first five years after the project is installed. Eligible installations include solar PV, solar space heating, and solar water heating.
Homeowners in Iowa are of course eligible for a national rebate as well. This incentive, called the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which returns residents 30 percent of the retail costs for solar PV arrays, as long as the system is large enough to provide at least 50 of the home’s energy needs. Complete form form 5965 along with your income taxes to see if you qualify.
Iowa Local Solar Incentives
While many incentives are applied statewide in Iowa, there are several that are distributed at a local level, through area utility providers. Here are a few of those offerings:
- Waverly Light and Power Residential Solar Thermal Rebates: Customers of Waverly Light and Power can apply for a rebate for solar water heating systems. The return amount is $30 per each square foot of the area of the collector, with a maximum rebate of $3,500.
- Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative Solar Water Heater Rebate Program: ENERGY STAR rated solar water heaters that can hold at least 40 gallons of water are eligible for a rebate for Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative customers. The maximum rebate amount is $350 per unit.