The Grow Solar Linn + Johnson Counties solar group buy has successfully concluded with 64 property owners in Linn and Johnson counties adding solar to their individual properties. By reaching a commitment total of nearly 557 kilowatts (kW), participants fully maximized their savings. The Grow Solar program, which closed on Sept. 30, provided solar education and competitive group purchasing for solar technology on residential and other small-scale solar uses, such as businesses. The installer for this year’s program was Eagle Point Solar.
This was the fifth solar group buy in the two-county area, with Linn County having offered programs in 2017 and 2019, and Johnson County in 2018 and 2020. Including the latest effort, the programs have resulted in 3,321 kW of solar added by 477 participating households. In addition, this year, 455 people attended one of 15 online “Solar Power Hours” to learn about solar.
The average system size purchased was nearly 9 kW, which should result in an average first-year utility savings of 10,300 kWh, equal to about $776, said Peter Murphy, solar program director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which administered the program at no cost to the counties or other program partners.
“Powering our homes and businesses with renewable energy is one of the best things everyday people can do to combat climate change,” Murphy said. “Often, home and business owners need to be shown how it can work for them, and that education has been possible thanks to Linn and Johnson counties’ partnership to lead the way.”
The program was the first dual solar group buy for Johnson and Linn counties. In addition to the two counties, primary partners were the City of Cedar Rapids, the City of Iowa City, Green Iowa AmeriCorps--Cedar Rapids/Matthew 25, Green Iowa AmeriCorps--Iowa City, Johnson Clean Energy District, Johnson County Conservation, Linn Clean Energy District, Linn County Public Health, and The Nature Conservancy in Iowa.
“The expanded collaboration between Linn and Johnson counties, MREA, cities, and several community partners made this year’s Grow Solar program a terrific success for residents and business owners,” said Amy Drahos, air quality supervisor for Linn County Public Health. “The continued success of the program in our communities demonstrates how interested people continue to be in solar as an option for their homes and businesses. We really appreciated the engagement from the community.”
The solar group buy and education program launched with below-market rate pricing. Any savings thresholds reached after property owners signed on for solar were retroactively rebated to those owners. In addition, federal incentives cover a large portion of the cost of going solar.
Becky Soglin, sustainability coordinator for Johnson County, said the program's positive effects continue even after the group buy has officially ended. “Sharing the experience with other local governments and groups so they can consider doing a solar group buy has been another value of doing the program,” Soglin said. “We really enjoyed working with MREA, Linn County and our many city and nonprofit organization partners, and encourage others to consider bringing this solar opportunity to their community.”
To learn how your community can host a solar group buy with assistance from MREA, visit www.midwestrenew.org/solargroupbuy.