solar panel

The Grow Solar Jackson County program surpassed its 50-kilowatt-hour goal, triggering a price break for the Jackson County residents and business owners who are participating.

“This was the first milestone that allows us to reduce the cost for everyone,” said Bruce Fisher, chair of the Jackson County Energy District, which is spearheading the program that promotes solar power locally.

The group is hoping to add more energy consumers to the ranks of the solar program, which wraps up Sept. 30. The Grow Solar group-buy program allows home, farm and commercial property owners to access competitive prices for solar installations through the power of volume purchasing.

Right now, five homes, farms or businesses have solar installments under the program, and about 20 proposals are outstanding, Fisher said.

The recently reached 50 kilowatt-hour (kwh) benchmark triggers a price break of $30 per kwh for all participants, Fisher said. That translates to a $210 average reduction in installation costs, Fisher said. Costs will continue to decrease if the group can reach the additional benchmarks of 150 kwh and 300kwh. It would take the equivalent of about 14 more homes to reach the next level, which is 150 kwh.

“We are excited to see the level of solar interest from Jackson County residents,” Fisher said. “Homeowners from across the county, including Bellevue, Maquoketa and Springbrook have signed up to go solar through the program and harness the power of the sun.”

For residents and business owners who want to find out more about the program and how solar energy works, two final Solar Power Hours are set for Sunday at Prairie Creek County Park and Pavilion. The first presentation is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the other will be from noon to 1 p.m. Tri-M BBQ will be on location from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to provide food. Donations are encouraged.

Visit  Jackson .GrowSolar. org for a sign-up form on which area residents and business owners can elect to receive a free cost estimate or general program updates and Solar Power Hour announcements.

For those interested in an estimate, Eagle Point Solar, the firm that installs the systems under the program, will need access to about a year’s worth of electric bills to decide what size solar system – the number of panels – is needed, Fisher said. Then they will come out and look at potential site for the installation.

Eagle Point puts together a proposal based on how much electricity will be used and where the panels will be located, which determines how much direct sunlight they’ll receive.

Right now, a 26% federal tax credit is available to home and farm owners and businesses. An Iowa state tax credit is available for farms and businesses.

While the Grow Solar ends at the end of the month, the Jackson County Energy District will continue efforts to educating about and promoting sustainable energy, Fisher said.

“We’re very optimistic and hopeful to reduce the energy footprint. We are also looking to develop options for our small towns,” he said, adding that a project with the University of Iowa’s Initiative for Sustainable Communities program to develop more efforts.