By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - Iowa
Just as Iowa's crops require sunshine to grow, clean energy advocates say so does the state's economy.
Part of the solar production tax credit for large utility-scaled projects expired last year. And, given Iowa's $133 million budget shortfall, there are concerns that state lawmakers will also allow the credit for small-scale and residential solar installation to fade away.
Katie Rock, a policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, notes the state invested nearly $16 million in the credit between 2012 and 2016, leveraging more than $123 million in private solar energy system investment.
"This is a fairly small tax credit,” she states. “It's only like $4 or $5 million. So, it's something that Iowa can afford in return for more growth in renewable energy. Iowa has been a longtime leader in renewable energy, and we just want to continue that for the state."
According to Rock, solar job growth topped 60 percent in Iowa from 2015 to 2016, and the industry statewide now includes more than 560 full-time workers in 45 different companies.
Rock says solar energy is spurring innovation and returns in rural areas, as farms and businesses invest in solar installations as a way to cut costs.
"You drive around rural Iowa, you can see some of these installations, right next to the Hach building and the farm operations,” she points out. “And the top county in Iowa for solar jobs is actually O'Brien County in northwest Iowa. So, farms and businesses are a huge part of driving this growth in solar energy."
Rock notes Iowa currently gets more than one-third of its electricity from wind power. With continued growth, she's convinced that advances in solar power could push Iowa to over 50 percent renewable, clean energy.
Feature photo: Adobe Stock