According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Germany receives roughly as much sunlight each year as Alaska. Despite its lack of sunlight, in May 2012, Germany set a new record in solar power production when over half the country’s electric demand was met with solar power. Germany’s photovoltaic (PV) solar panels were feeding 22 gigawatts onto the grid each hour, an amount equivalent to the output of 20 nuclear power plants. Germany’s installed solar capacity is nearly equivalent to the entire rest of the world combined. So, if cloudy, dark Germany can utilize this clean renewable source of energy, shouldn’t Iowa—a place with twice as much sunlight—be able to do the same?
“Absolutely,” says Tim Dwight. “Iowans know how to use the sun to create wealth—we planted 14 million acres of corn this spring. The next step is to power our state with a local, direct, renewable resource: the sun.”
Dwight, 38, is a native Iowa Citian known for his Hawkeye and NFL football career, football camp and the Tim Dwight Foundation. He sees solar power as Iowa and the nation’s opportunity to create jobs, become more energy independent and reduce carbon emissions. He’s well integrated in the solar scene through his company, iPowerCorp, as well as through his role as the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association president.
Iowa’s solar industry may still be in its infancy, but it holds potential for incredible growth and job creation. Little Village recently had a chance to ask Dwight a few questions about his endeavors into the world of solar energy.
Little Village: What drew you to the solar industry?
Tim Dwight: I was coming out of 10 years in the NFL and wanted another big challenge, a new career. The energy industry has provided me that opportunity, especially now what I know and how important solar is to the world. Solar energy is real, and happening. The global market for solar energy is booming. The solar market has grown the extraordinary rate of 69 percent per year during the recession.
LV: What exactly is iPowerCorp?
TD: Integrated Power is a solar integrator. We design, engineer, procure and install—with local representation—high performance photovoltaic energy generating systems for commercial, industrial and utility customers.
LV: What is your role there?
TD: Good question. I wear a lot of hats for iPower but for the most part, I develop projects, contractor base and a bit of project management. I’m also a teacher since most people have no idea on how energy is produced, transmitted, works as well as all the other pieces to the energy paradigm.
LV: What is your elevator pitch for solar? What makes solar a good investment?
TD: My pitch: Solar is high performance, reliable, robust, free energy resource and produces clean energy, aiding in fixed energy costs and saving money. It is good for the environment, and you, the customer, play a part in America’s energy security. Did I mention that with solar you have no more energy bills or rate increases?
LV: What are the most creative or surprising uses of solar that you’ve seen?
TD: Solar boats.
LV: What should Iowans—especially in Iowa City—know about solar?
TD: Iowa has plenty of sun and solar is now feasible for all Iowans to be part of this shift towards clean energy. iPowerCorp has installed 20-25 projects in Iowa for approximately 400-500 kilowatts of solar capacity. We’ve installed solar for energy cooperatives, businesses, community colleges and universities, including the 51kW system that powers the University of Iowa’s electric vehicles.
LV: What is the biggest misconception about solar?
TD: That solar is unreliable and expensive. Both are not true; especially the latter.
LV: What is the potential for solar power in Iowa? Has Iowa been a good place to do business?
TD: Iowa is a good place to do business. I believe people in Iowa see how wind has helped this state with job creation, tax base and a clean fuel: Solar will do the same. Education needs to happen and once that does, people will then make the choice.
LV: How have local partnerships or connections made a difference in your business?
TD: In business, partnerships are crucial. Not only makes the job easier but much more enjoyable. There’s nothing better than working with a bunch of motivated people to change the world for better, one watt at a time.
Sheila Samuelson is an entrepreneur and sustainability consultant based out of Iowa City. She’s interested in helping companies find business success by adopting sustainability practices. Sheila can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.