New program will help reduce the cost of solar power for Johnson County homeowners

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Solarize Johnson County meeting

Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, Rm. 203 B-C — Thursday, April 26 at 12 p.m.

Home with solar panels . — photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

A new program to help Johnson County and West Branch residents interested in adding solar power to their homes will hold its first public meeting on Thursday at Johnson County Health and Human Services Building. Solarize Johnson County is a collaboration between the county, six cities and the nonprofit Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA).

“First and foremost, it’s an educational effort so people can learn about solar,” said Becky Soglin, sustainability coordinator for Johnson County. “The focus is residential use.”

Solarize Johnson County will also provide a chance to participate in group purchasing program, using the power of multiple purchases to lower the cost of installing solar panels on homes below what an individual purchaser would typically pay.

The Wisconsin-based MREA has conducted versions of the solarize program in more than a dozen counties throughout the Midwest. Last year, Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County resulted in contracts for solar panels installations on 104 homes. According to an October press release from Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County, the program “resulted in a rebate of $200 per [kilowatt] installed saving the average participant $1,164.” It’s estimated those new solar installations will generate 700,000 kilowatt hours of clean solar energy annually.

“MREA approached us last year to see if we’d like to participate, and our board of supervisors was eager, because one of the county’s goals has been to move beyond using renewables for our own operations and to helping the people of Johnson County consider it for their own use,” Soglin said.

The county has been incorporating solar power into its own buildings for the past three years. The first solar power installation was in 2015 at the Secondary Roads Facility. The following year, an array of solar panels were installed at Johnson County Health and Human Services Building. Plans call for solar panels to also be installed on the county’s new building for its ambulance service. When that solar array is installed, the county will have a total of 400 kilowatts of electricity generated by the sun, according to Soglin.

“For perspective, that’s about what 65 to 70 homes with solar panels installed would generate,” she added.

Thursday’s meeting, which starts at noon, is the first of 22 that will be held in the six cities with which the program partners — Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Shueyville, Solon and West Branch — as well as other locations in Johnson County. A complete list of the meetings, as well as more information on the program, can be found on the Solarize Johnson County website.

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