SEIA BLOG (Troy Van Beek) — With more than 8,000 solar companies across the nation, solar energy is a true success story. Solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in America– thanks, in large part, to innovation, smart policy, and a lot of hard work.
California leads the nation with 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar – enough to power two million homes – while five Eastern states are closing in on totaling four GW of solar.
I’m a proud veteran, having spent nine years serving our country in the U.S. Navy SEALs and serving as a special forces medic. I returned to the States and helped build a corporate sustainability plan for my hometown of Fairfield, Iowa. I know clean, affordable, reliable solar is a winning choice for Iowa.
My mind is set on solar energy for the nation and for Iowa. With costs falling fast, solar is set to spread across the Midwest and heartland states. When my wife, Amy, and I started Ideal Energy back in 2009, we were pioneers in solar, one of the first to bet that solar markets could flourish in Iowa. Flash forward to this year, and we will install as much solar in 2015 in Iowa as we have in all prior years, combined.
We’ve grown to meet the surging demand for a lower cost renewable energy source in Iowa, one that can compete with fossil fuels. Today we employ 25 workers, with 10 more hires on the way. Ideal Energy, along with the 44 other solar companies doing business in Iowa, employed nearly 1,000 people last year. That number is only headed up for next year.
And who’s winning because of this? Well, small businesses are booming. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers, roofers—they’re all winning because of solar. In fact, we’re all winning.
Along the I-80 corridor, from New York and Toledo, across Iowa, to Salt Lake City and San Francisco, solar is powering homes, small businesses, government facilities, and factories. In Iowa alone, we have roughly 50 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough to power 6,000 homes. But here’s the real eye-opening statistic: solar in Iowa is projected to double this year over 2014, with similar growth in 2016.
Among many solar projects from homes, businesses, and factories that we worked on so far this year, two can demonstrate the power of solar. First, we’ve worked with a welding manufacturing plant in Pilot Grove to help them cut their energy bills by installing a 430 kilowatt (kW) solar array. That plant is seeing its electricity bills drop from $93,000 per year to zero. Zero. Because of their investment in solar.
Meanwhile, in Fort Madison, we’ve worked with a former school with historical significance that is being converted to apartments. We installed 200 kW of solar on the roof and are now adding another 100 kW on a carport to create a 300 kW project that will dramatically reduce the electricity costs of those renters, while creating good-paying project jobs and keeping our air and water clean.
I believe in solar for many reasons, including the environmental and economic potential of this booming industry. One major reason it is booming is because of smart federal and state policy to diversify and protect our energy resources. Top of that list is the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).
The ITC provides homeowners and companies who install solar with a thirty-percent federal tax credit, helping make solar more affordable for families and small businesses. It’s helped us help others cut their electric bill this year by installing solar projects on homes and buildings across Iowa.
The federal ITC is scheduled to expire next year. That’s too soon. By any measurement, this policy is paying huge dividends for both our nation’s economy and environment, and is just about to get even bigger in Iowa.
This is not the time to give up on new technologies, as they’re finally closing in on costs of other fuels and driving down everybody’s bills through competition. The jobs, the economic development, the small businesses, the chance for energy independence – these are too important to risk.
Keep an eye on Iowa and the American heartland as we close out this year and look to reap rewards for the whole state next year with our most abundant crop: the sun.
Troy Van Beek is Founder & CEO of Ideal Energy, Inc., a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business based in Fairfield providing solar services to residential, commercial and government customers.