Solar Energy in the News

Analysis Shows Customer-Owned Solar Still the Best Financial Decision for Iowans

CEDAR RAPIDS - Analysis of the solar programs proposed by Alliant Energy as part of its rate case shows that customers would benefit more from investing in their own solar system than participating in Alliant’s proposed community solar project.


“We applaud Alliant Energy for its effort to increase solar in its generation portfolio because community solar projects can be a good option for people who do not own their residence or business building,” said Tim Dwight, President of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association. “However, the highest return on investment for Iowa farmers, businesses, and homeowners continues to be the ability to own their own generation and control their energy future. Alliant’s solar plans should not undercut Iowa’s solar industry and the 1,000 people it employs.”


When comparing costs for an average 6 kW residential solar system, the customer-owned system would save $870 annually for the customer compared to $460 that customers would save annually by investing in the community solar project. In Alliant Energy territory, it would take a homeowner just nine years to see a return on this investment if they invest in solar directly themselves. For customers that invest in the community solar project, the payback period would double to 18 years before they realize the return on their investment. 



* Table compares average costs for a 6 kW residential system at $2.40/watt and 24 Alliant community solar units at $350/unit


In addition to a program that would allow commercial and industrial customers to contract with Alliant to get power from a renewable source, the rate case also proposes to lease rooftops and other large customer facilities to install solar the utility will own. 


“Alliant’s interest in entering the distributed solar market through its customer-hosted renewables and renewable partner programs shows that there is strong consumer demand for solar energy. We know distributed solar can be a great resource for utilities to avoid or delay expensive upgrades to the electric grid and to deliver power to right where it is needed without having to ship it long distances,” said Dwight. “Private solar investments can provide all of these benefits as well so a key piece of the rate case is determining where it makes sense for the utility to do this and where the private market can do the job and to make sure the monopoly utility is not able to unfairly compete with private businesses. We think the private market has a lot of capacity to deliver the kinds of benefits Alliant is claiming will come from these programs, only with more upside for customers.”


Alliant’s rate case includes multiple solar provisions, including an attempt to increase fees for people who install solar panels. 


“The rate case is another attempt to pass a Sunshine Tax on solar customers and undercut the private solar market, an idea that recently failed at the legislature,” said Dwight. “The new fees Alliant is proposing in the rate case  are a critical risk to consumer choice for Iowans who are already beholden to the monopoly utility’s rising rates.”

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