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Q-ENERGY & The Iowa Energy Center Supports Solar

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Q-ENERGY & The Iowa Energy Center Supports Solar

iowa energy center solar energy

IOWA ENERGY CENTER

Q-ENERGY & "The Iowa Energy Center supports economic development, environmental sustainability, and social well-being in Iowa through energy innovation, education, and entrepreneurship. We provide Iowans with reliable, objective information on energy and efficiency options."

IOWA ENERGY CENTER

This resource provides tips for getting started with your decision to go solar such as...
 

They even provide a Solar Calculator to help you figure out your return on investment

Solar Calculatorhouse solar

There a lot of information on this website but to give you an idea of some of what they suggest when shopping for a solar energy system.

Preliminary Steps and Research
It is critical to do your homework and research throughout all phases of determining if an
investment in a solar generating system is right for you.
 
Recommended Steps
1. Maximize energy efficiency.
Completion of a thorough energy efficiency audit is an important
precursor to considering a solar energy system. Implementing energy efficiency measures in
advance of installing a solar energy system can save you money and reduce the size of the solar
energy system you’ll need to meet your energy needs.
2. Check with local authorities.
Plan a visit with your local authorities to learn the requirements
for obtaining a building permit and to learn if there are any local ordinances that may either
prevent the construction of a solar array or that limit its size, location, visibility, and setbacks.
If your community has not addressed development of residential solar, you may experience
delays while rules and requirements are developed. If you live in a platted development, you
also should check any building restrictions and other requirements the covenants that may have been put in place by the developer of the plat. They can be found in the abstract to
your property.
alliant_logo3. Check with your local electric utility.
Schedule a personal visit with your electric utility. During
your visit, obtain information that may affect the location, size and cost of the array; the value
of the energy generated by the array; the safety issues that will need to be addressed; and any additional fees or costs that might be incurred with interconnection of a solar energy system.
Iowa law (legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/476.pdf) requires that the owner must provide written notice to the utility no later than 30 days prior to the commencement of construction or installation of an alternate energy production facility, including a solar array. Iowa’s utilities have an obligation to interconnect, and the Iowa Utilities Board has a streamlined process for interconnection of a solar energy system (see Pages 26-27 for more information).MidAmerican-Energy
In addition, learn about the following:
       a. What will your electric rate be after the array is connected to the grid, and will the array
change your usage rate and monthly service charge?
        b. How will you be compensated for excess generation, and what is the buy-back rate for excess generation sold back to the utility? For example, if net metering is offered, learn if banking of excess generation is allowed and how often the account is settled (monthly, annually, never).
If settlement dates are applied annually, identify which month is used and if there are choices
related to the settlement month. If net metering is not offered, learn what the selling and
purchasing rates will be for the net billing policy and if the points of settlement are monthly
or annual. It’s imperative to talk to your utility to understand how your load profile will work
with your settlement month. Note: Iowa’s rate-regulated utilities file information about
their avoided cost with the Iowa Utilities Board. Non-rate-regulated utilities will provide
information about their avoided cost upon request to your local utility.
      c. What effect will the solar energy system have on the current rates under which you are
purchasing electric service from your electric utility and on any end-use rates that you may
be receiving, such as electric heat rates, geothermal rates, and higher block rates?
      d. If you’re on a demand or time-of-use rate, will your bill be impacted?
      e. If you have multiple meters or submeters, how many meters do you anticipate may be
offset by a single solar array interconnection? Or, how multiple meters and submeters
may be combined as a means to offset more loads and what are the electric rate
implications for doing so?
 
Understand Your Energy Bill and Rate Structure
Before investing in a solar energy system, it’s critical that you talk to your utility and understand your rate structure. The rate structure that
you’re currently on may change once you install a solar energy system and should be factored into your calculations as it will impact your
monthly bill. Below is a description of some of the charges that could be found on a utility bill.
Fixed charge
The fixed part of the bill is often referred to as a service
charge and is designed to cover the utility’s cost to
construct facilities and to connect your electric service.
energy charge
The variable components of the bill are those billed on an
energy basis. These are designed to cover the costs associated
with the actual monthly usage at your service location and
appear as a per kilowatt-hour (kWh) charge. Some utilities also
adjust the price of a kWh based on a seasonal rate or the time of
day that kWhs are consumed.
Some electric bills may include a demand charge, billed per kilowatt
(kW). So, if your bill has a demand line item it is helpful to understand
the difference between energy and demand. Energy is analogous to
the odometer in your car. It tells you how far you’ve traveled, or on your
electric bill, how much electricity you have used. If energy is the odometer, then demand is your speedometer. The speedometer tells you
how fast you are traveling; similarly, demand tells you the rate in which you are using electricity at a particular point in time.
     f. Does your utility offer a community-based solar opportunity or green pricing program?
A community-based solar program may afford you the benefits of your own solar array
without the ownership and maintenance responsibilities.
     g. Note that the information that you receive from your utility will represent current rates and
tariffs. With the appropriate approval, rates, rate structures and tariffs may change over time
to reflect changes in your utility’s cost of providing service.
4. Understand your electric utility bill and your electricity usage patterns.
Review one to two years of historical usage and cost records. The history will help you to understand how much and when you are using electricity. You also should talk to your utility to gain an understanding of the potential for future rate increases as this will affect the economics of your project.
If you are looking to reduce your peak/demand with a solar installation, you will want to make sure you understand the time and duration of your historical peak/demand and understand if the expected output of your solar energy system will adequately serve that purpose. Before purchasing a system, it is critical to speak with your utility to understand how solar energy generation will be applied to your bill. This will help you to develop a realistic estimate of potential savings from a solar energy system.
5. Prepare for a site assessment.
After completing your initial research, a preliminary site
assessment will help to determine the parameters and constraints that need to be considered
during the design, bidding and construction phases.
 
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