Solar panels on a home. (Nature Conservancy photo)

The Nature Conservancy in Iowa is offering home and business owners in the state a crash course in solar power.

Patrick Snell, the organization’s climate and external affairs associate, says the Grow Solar program is in its fourth year of helping Iowans navigate a course toward finding an affordable source of renewable energy.

“It’s hard to know what to look for in solar, how to work with your utility, how to work with your municipality and figuring out all the right questions to ask,” Snell says. “What this program does is really put all that in front of them in a 30-minute educational series to get all those questions answered.”

Grow Solar is underway this summer in Polk County, after successful runs in Dallas, Warren, Linn, Jackson and Johnson counties. There’s also a longer program, the Solar Power Hour, where people can learn the basics of solar energy, along with some of the financial aspects.

“The program is a limited group buy purchasing program, so anybody that wants to participate in the program, we basically do a bulk purchasing of individual solar systems,” Snell says. “We usually see about a 10% reduction in the price of solar for those individual homes or businesses.”

The program aims to connect Iowa home and business owners with local, reputable installers, while warning them about the predatory tactics of some out-of-state solar companies. “Good solar companies have a headquarters or an operation in the state, that’s a big one for us,” Snell says. “One other thing we look at is the number of installations they’ve done. There’s a lot of companies that will come in to just try it out, and you’ll end up paying for a lot of headaches both for that resident, as well as their local utilities.”

Just because you see something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true, and this applies to the solar industry as well. Snell says people may want to steer clear of some companies that advertise on social media about the benefits of solar power.

“It’s something that can be good for someone’s pocketbook and good for their heart, and unfortunately from that altruistic side, we do see a lot of actors have misleading ads,” Snell says. “I would say there’s a lot of good players, there’s a lot of not-so-good players in the industry, so yes, there’s some ads to be wary of.”

The Solar Power Hours are being held virtually and in-person to help equip Iowans with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions.

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