See what incentives, prices and installers are available if you're considering solar panels in the Hawkeye State.
Iowa residents currently pay some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, but prices have been rising. Could solar panels help you fight those higher bills?
While the Hawkeye State isn't a top solar state -- it's ranked 27th in total installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association -- it provides net metering and other incentives to solar customers.
The average cost of an 8-kilowatt solar panel system in Iowa is over $25,000, but you can reduce that with incentives.
Can solar panels save you money?
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Here's a look at how investing in solar panels can help you gain energy independence and reduce your energy bills.
Here's a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from FindEnergy.com.
|System size (kW)||Price per watt||Total cost|
There is more than one way to pay for solar panels in Iowa. Let's look at the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
Cash: A cash payment is the most direct way to pay for solar panels. Even though the upfront cost is high, you can take advantage of the federal residential clean energy credit and state incentives to decrease the cost. You also don't have to worry about any interest or loan fees.
Solar loan: Once you pass a credit check, getting a solar loan is relatively easy. You don't need to pay a hefty sum upfront when you take out the loan. However, interest and loan fees will apply and add to the total cost of solar, though the residential clean energy credit applies to loan purchases too.
Lease: With a solar lease, you enter a contract with a solar company that installs solar panels on your home. You pay a flat monthly price for the electricity produced by the panels. Since the solar company retains the ownership, it will claim all the tax credits, rebates and other incentives.
Power purchase agreement: Under a power purchase agreement, a solar company provides the solar system for you but owns, operates and maintains the solar panels. The company charges you a fixed amount per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by solar panels. Like solar leasing, all incentives go to the solar company since it owns the panels.
Power purchase agreements and solar leases are viable options for those who can't get a loan or have no upfront capital. Cash payment or a loan can provide a better monetary value over the long term because you will qualify for different incentive programs to lower the cost of solar. After that, you fully own the solar panels and continue to save on your electricity bill.
You have access to several solar incentives to help lower the cost of solar. The residential clean energy credit, a federal solar tax credit program formerly known as the investment tax credit, is one of the most generous solar benefits for US homeowners. With the clean energy credit, you can deduct 30% of the cost of a solar system from your federal income tax burden. This tax credit is available between 2022 and 2032. It decreases to 26% in 2033, 22% in 2034 and expires in 2035.
Iowa residents can apply for additional state and local incentives.
|Net metering||Net metering is the process by which you can sell surplus electricity produced by your solar panels back to the grid for credits on your bill. Iowa has a robust net metering policy but it doesn't extend to municipal utilities and electric cooperatives. Two major investor-owned utilities -- MidAmerican Energy and Interstate Power and Light -- allow solar customers with a system less than 1 megawatt to participate in net metering.|
|Property tax exemption||The property tax exemption for renewable energy systems in Iowa exempts your new solar system from property taxes for five years.|
|Sales tax exemption||Under Iowa's renewable energy equipment exemption, you don't have to pay the 6% sales tax on your solar system and installation costs.|
|Solar easement and access laws||Iowa's solar easement and access laws allow you to enter a voluntary easement agreement with your neighbors to ensure your panels get direct access to sunlight. Or you can request a solar access easement order from the solar access regulatory board.|
The Solar Energy Industries Association lists 72 solar companies in Iowa, including 30 installers. SunPower, one of the best solar companies researched by CNET, is included on this list, but there are additional installers in Iowa worth considering.
ADT Solar (formerly Sunpro Solar) is one of the largest solar and battery installers in the US. The company provides a complete installation process, including solar system design, permitting paperwork, installation and inspection. The company also offers a solar monitoring service after installation. Systems include 25-year warranties for solar panels, solar inverters, quality of work and production.
Eagle Point Solar is a major solar installer in the Midwest. It provides full-service installation services in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. You will get a five-year quality of work warranty and a 25-year product warranty. The company offers power purchase agreements and leasing options, but only for commercial customers.
Energy Consultants Group is a full-service solar company based in Anamosa, Iowa. It installs solar panels, batteries, EV chargers and generators. The company can also monitor your system 24/7 to ensure its performance. Energy Consultants Group offers a 10-year quality of work warranty and a 25-year product and performance warranty on parts and components of a solar system. While the company provides a solar financing option, it's unclear if it offers solar leases and power purchase agreements.
GRNE Solar is a full-service installer servicing Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Michigan and Nebraska. You can get solar panels, batteries, electric vehicle chargers, energy monitoring and maintenance. It offers solar leasing in some of its locations. The company doesn't currently have information on warranties.
SunPower provides installation services through its nationwide network of certified installers. SunPower Solar customers get a 10-year battery warranty and a 25-year guarantee for performance, product and quality of work. The company can help you finance your solar panels or give you the option to enter a solar lease or PPA.
Many factors can determine whether the benefits of going solar outweigh the costs. An experienced solar panel installer can help you figure this out.
Insurance: Many home insurance companies can cover solar panels in their policies. Ask your insurance company if your policy covers them.
Location: The amount of shading around your house impacts the generation from solar panels.
Rent or own: Installing solar panels is challenging for renters since they don't own the property. Enrolling in a community solar program is one of the best ways for renters to get clean and renewable energy.
Roof: Most homeowners install solar panels on their rooftops. It's essential to find out if your roof is in good shape before you get a solar system. Repairing or replacing your roof before installing solar panels saves you more money than dealing with it after installing them. Your installer should complete a roof inspection and communicate any necessary repairs before installation.
As a clean and renewable energy source, solar generation doesn't emit harmful greenhouse gas emissions to the environment. Energy production from fossil fuels uses a lot of water and releases pollutants. The US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy believes improved air quality from solar energy could prevent avoidable health care costs and save over 25,000 lives.
Solar panels add value to your home. According to the Appraisal Journal, a home's value can increase by $20 for every $1 decrease in yearly utility bills. Zillow found that sustainable homes, including those with solar panels and energy-efficient features, sold faster than others in 2022.
Solar panels are designed to last at least 30 years. It doesn't mean that after 30 years they will stop working, but their output will decrease over time. Panels will continue to generate energy and reduce electricity bills even after 30 years. Upkeep of the panels and timely maintenance of any issues can slow down their degradation rate.