The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives held its annual meeting in West Des Moines Thursday and Friday and renewable energy was one of the issues discussed. IAEC regulatory affairs director, Regi Goodale, says the Iowa co-ops are prepared to help customers install solar panels. “All of the Iowa R-E-C’s have interconnection policies in place, so if we have customers who are interested in having their own solar panels, there’s written policies in place to allow for that interconnection to take place and procedures to buy back any excess power they might have,” Goodale says.
He says installing individual solar panels is something that’s been gaining some interest. “We are seeing some interest by member consumers in doing that,” Goodale says. “Some of the cooperatives themselves are investing in solar and taking a look at when that solar produces power versus when their members need the power and trying to figure out how that works in each local system.”
He says several things have raised the interest in solar panels in recent years. “The cost has come down quite a bit and there’s still a lot of incentives out there — federal and state incentives — that the customers are able to tap into for investment into that. So, that does make it economical in certain situations,” Goodale says. He says the coops try to help the customers figure out if it is a good fit for them.
“Making sure that the member, if they are looking to invest in solar, that they’ve done their homework,” according to Goodale. “Making sure you understand what the interconnection costs are going to be, what the rate schedule you will be on once you get it interconnected. What your incentives are. And it ends up being a win-win situation if you’ve worked with a good reputable vendor and there’s no surprises. Nobody likes surprises along the way.”
Goodale says a small number of IAEC customers are using some form of renewable energy at this point. “Including wind and solar, I think out of the 225-thousand meters that we serve in Iowa, there’s about 400 right now that have either wind or solar. Off the top of my head, probably about 75-percent of those are solar rather than wind,” according to Goodale. Electric co-ops serve customers in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.