Alliant Energy Corporation : Despite battles, solar energy growing in Iowa

Over the next year, the state will be developing a simplified process to integrate photovoltaics technology across Iowa.

Solar power is happening in the state of Iowa. Anyone noticed the installers on rooftops bolting down record rates of solar modules? Look up.

It's happening. And since our state is building a sustainable solar market, the Iowa Department of Economic Development just recently received a $1.03 million Department of Energy grant to expand the adoption of solar.

Over the next year, the state will be developing a simplified process to integrate photovoltaics technology across Iowa. Photovoltaics is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors. The program structure provides access for every Iowan to be involved in this exciting technology and investment. Just after this announcement, the Iowa Utilities Board agreed - at the request of Alliant Energy - to lower its energy efficiency goals and completely eliminate its Solar Rewards program that has flourished the past three years. This program allowed Alliant Energy's customers to use their own money in rebate incentives to save money, procure clean energy and create homegrown jobs.

The growth rate of the Iowa solar industry is compounding annually. We should increase funding to a growth market in our communities, not remove it. Solar adoption in the U.S. is battling on many fronts. Recently, the American Legislative Exchange Council has started the argument that solar energy producers are "free riders" of the grid system. The legislative exchange council fails to mention that customers pay for grid infrastructure and the $10,000 to $50,000 or even $1 million solar investment made by the customer increases grid stability, grid efficiency and energy security. No one can take away the sun. The "free riders" have been utilities with public guaranteed rates of return on power investments and a monopolized energy market the past 100 years.

When a customer has no other choice for a product/service and is limited to one provider of that product/service, who then has a "free ride"?

Times are changing and rapidly. At the national level, the United States set a new record for solar installations in a quarter, 930 mega-watts. That's one interconnection every four minutes. This is equivalent to the size of a nuclear reactor that takes years to build. Solar is doing it in three months, and we're just at the starting line. The U.S. might out-install the world leader, Germany, in 2013.

One of Iowa's rural electric cooperatives in Kalona, Farmer Electric, just signed the state's first Power Purchase Agreement with a third-party solar developer. We have a local REC utility investing in the benefits and opportunities of solar power. Monumental.

Iowa wants solar. Just this past year, Gov. Terry Branstad and the state Legislature passed a law that allows the Iowa taxpayer a tax credit for installing solar technology - creating jobs, investment opportunities, savings and increasing Iowa's tax base. Solar is a resource that's clean, secure, robust and a massive economic engine.

So here's what we say at the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association: Join the quest for photovoltaics. It's coming to a rooftop near you. A building, a barn, a school, a church or 10 acres of megawatts by a farmer selling a kilowatt commodity just like corn, hogs or soybeans. Solar is bankable, and when all Americans realize they too can join the energy markets, it will happen faster than I learned to pronounce "photovoltaics."

Dwight is the president of Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association. The group's website is

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