Getting the word out
Wed, 04/05/2017 - 12:59pm admin
—Newly formed HCED gives tour
By Marcie Klomp News Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
CRESCO - Howard County Energy District may have just formed, but already members are spreading the word about the importance of energy efficiency and local, renewable energy in saving money and creating business opportunities.
Approximately 20 people attended a solar tour of the area on March 24. Information was shared during four stops on the tour. The group included owners of solar arrays, those thinking of purchasing, efficiency experts, vendors, investors and Representative Jane Bloomingdale. Sen. Waylon Brown was unable to attend due to a medical emergency.
Statistics were explained for solar arrays on the Chad Curtis Farm, Howard County Mutual, the city’s Kessel Lodge and well (owned by Solar Pro, LLC) and Cresco Bank & Trust (CB&T).
The group travelled on an alternative-fuel (LP) bus chartered from the Howard-Winneshiek (H-W) school district. Superintendent John Carver and Transportation Director Brian Swestka explained the district is buying LP buses because they are reliable, cost less to run and provide cleaner air for students, while costing no more to buy than diesel buses.
For the follow-up discussion and lunch, several other local business leaders joined the group, and owners of solar arrays, such as Harold Noe, Carver for H-W and Don Dietzenbach of State Farm Insurance gave updates on their systems.
CB&T President Donna Thomas also spoke on the benefits and how CB&T, along with Decorah Bank & Trust, are strong advocates for solar. The banks give energy loans at lower interest rates to encourage customers to be energy efficient, including using renewable energy.
During the working lunch, Amy Bouska, who was instrumental in getting the HCED formed, noted that in 2016, a study by the U.S. Dept. of Energy found that solar had more jobs in energy generation (373,807) than fossil (187,117), wind (101,738) and nuclear (68,176) combined (357,031).
Gary Gooder, owner of Alum-Line in Cresco, commented this study probably misses many solar-related jobs, such as the work his company does in producing trailers and other equipment for solar installers around the Midwest.
Andy Johnson, Director of Winneshiek Energy District, stated there was more solar in Decorah than in Des Moines. He added that tax credits have been important for the market, since the installations have historically been expensive for the average consumer.
As technology improves, prices on solar array systems have been decreasing, but Johnson is hoping there is still money available to help those who are already waiting for their rebates. He went on to say no tax credit should continue forever, but they are important in helping new technologies, such as wind and solar, become established. He also noted that, unlike many other tax credits, these really help rural areas.
The biggest concern at the present time is the change in Alliant Energy’s net metering tariff, which spells out how the utility treats energy produced but not used by an individual. That energy is put on the grid for the power company to use and sell to other customers.
The new tariff, which went into effect April 1, 2017, allows net metering based on “demand,” which will cause the amount of production that can be net metered to be less than the average annual usage. Installations with interconnection agreements before the April 1 effective date will be grandfathered into the prior tariff. As a result, many customers are hurrying to get their name on the list to be eligible for that tariff.
Another issue brought up was the technology involved with having a battery to store energy. HCED Board Member Stan Fosaaen explained at this time it isn’t a cost-effective option for most people because the relatively limited storage capacity of today’s batteries means that people will either still use the grid as a backup power source or they have to be very, very careful in their energy usage.
Russell Novak, of Perry Novak Electric, commented there has been a lot of news about the Tesla Powerwall, but production has been so limited he has not been able to buy one.
Johnson added wind is another good energy source, but, “It just doesn’t work as well for the little guy.”
Anyone who wants more information on energy efficiency or renewable energy can contact any member of the HCED, which includes Brett Daley, Dave Daley, Jim Wolfe, Alan Schatz, Fosaaen, Linn Hvitved and Bouska.