Auditor: Governments May Save $ 375 Million With Solar Energy – Marshalltown Occasions Republican

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ap photo Iowa's auditor says solar panels could save Iowa's cities, counties and school districts millions of dollars based on reports of early installations.

If every county town, school district, and county government in Iowa installed an average solar power system, taxpayers would save $ 375 million over the life of the equipment, according to Auditor Rob Sand in a new report.

In the state's first of its kind, Sand asked local governments and school districts, as well as the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, for information about solar systems and made a list of more than 100.

The auditor's office selected 27 projects at random and sent questions to the promoters. Of these, 13 answered.

Analysis by the state found that local governments and school districts saved an average of $ 26,475 in energy per year because of the solar panels. That would add up to $ 716,437 over the life of the installation, Sand added.

In an interview, Sand said he got the idea for the review in part from talking to family members who own solar panels and talking about their energy savings. One of Sand's core programs on behalf of taxpayers is the Public Innovations & Efficiencies (PIE) program.

The idea is to show government agencies how they can save money by, for example, saving energy, restricting the printing of documents or reducing water consumption. Solar energy seemed worth the list, and the study was born, Sand said.

Sand's own office saved $ 30,000 a year by choosing not to automatically print out all of the audits and other reports employees generate, he said.

The solar systems have some advantages.

Often, according to the auditor, school districts could use sales tax receipts for work to relieve the strained general funds that rely on property taxes.

Sand noted that the City of Knoxville had joined the local school district on a project. And Mason City found that the city government not only saved money, but also reduced carbon emissions associated with climate change.

Further installations are for example in Lisbon, in the school district of Iowa Falls and in Black Hawk County.

Some local governments buy electricity from other owners' solar panels or lease equipment, which reduces upfront costs. The city of Letts had no upfront payments, and officials expect the system to pay for itself in 15 years, Sand noted.

The Sigourney Schools have also received a no upfront system, but are considering a purchase for about $ 300,000. The equipment would pay for itself in about six to seven years, the district reported.

According to the report, solar energy systems typically last 20 to 30 years.

Sand's projection of $ 375 million in savings assumed that each of the 99 county governments, 100 county capitals (Lee County has two), and 330 school districts had a system in place.

In an interview, Kerri Johannsen, director of the Iowa Environmental Council's energy program, said that solar energy has gained interest in Iowa because the price of solar panels has fallen 90% over the past decade. Depending on the system and utility involved, systems can pay for themselves in five to 15 years, but the time will vary depending on the circumstances.

Iowa's future in solar energy is better than many believe, said Johannsen.

“The growth is definitely accelerating. People haven't viewed Iowa as a solar hot spot, but Iowa is the 16th in the country for solar potential. “ According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, she added.

Auditor: Local governments could save a total of $ 375 million on average solar systems

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