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Solarize Johnson County coming to Solon May 24

Solar panel installation incentive comes to six cities
Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry, a longtime proponent of renewable energy initiatives, stands among the solar panels installed on the rooftop at the Johnson County Administration Building at 913 S. Dubuque St. in Iowa City. This month, the county introduces its Solarize Johnson County program to provide homeowners an incentive to install solar panels on their homes. (photo by Cale Stelken)

JOHNSON COUNTY– Local residents have an opportunity to learn more about solar energy and invest in affordable solar through the new Solarize Johnson County program.
The initiative builds on the success of Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County, where more than 500 individuals attended free solar education sessions and nearly 100 property owners added solar to their properties in 2017.
Now, Johnson County, Johnson County Public Health, Johnson County Conservation and six municipalities are teaming up with a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization to launch a similar program.
The program allows homeowners throughout Johnson County to pool their buying power and secure significant discounts that make installing solar more affordable. Residents are encouraged to attend one of the numerous Solar Power Hours scheduled throughout the county. The free, one-hour informational sessions will teach the basics of solar, its financial implications for households and how the Solarize program works. Residents interested will then get a free, no obligation site assessment from the installer, and will have until Aug. 31 to decide whether to get solar through the program. Cities hosting Solar Power Hours include Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Oxford, Solon, Shueyville, Swisher and West Branch.
Residents throughout the county are welcome to attend any Solar Power Hour that is most convenient for them. The educational sessions will help prospective participants learn how solar works and have their questions answered, said Mike Carberry, chairperson of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.
“Solarize Johnson County will be a tremendous opportunity for anyone in the county to consider adding solar to their home, and reaping the benefits of clean, affordable renewable energy,” Carberry said. “We’re really excited about the partnership.”
The program kicked off Thursday, April 26, at the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, and runs through August with more than 20 Solar Power Hours. The program’s website, SolarizeJohnsonCounty.com, lists all the events and includes a sign-up form that area residents can fill out for an estimate, or to receive general program updates.
Solarize Johnson County is administered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) at no cost to the county. This type of program has been successful in other jurisdictions in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, and as seen in neighboring Linn County.
“Over the past several years we have helped educate thousands of property owners all over the Midwest about solar,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager for MREA. “There’s a huge demand for information about solar, and folks are learning that it’s no longer an inaccessible technology of the future, but rather it’s available to them right now.”
Tom Wieseler, of Mount Vernon, not only added solar to his home through the Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County program, he also helped lead it. Wieseler delivered more than 20 free educational Solar Power Hours last year on behalf of MREA and will do the same in Johnson County.
“It was an easy decision for my wife and me to invest in solar for our home,” Wieseler said. “Each day I check to see what my solar production has been. I’m looking forward to serving as the presenter for the Solarize Johnson County program and spreading the message of residential solar energy in Johnson County this summer.”  
“We really embrace renewable energy here,” Special Projects Coordinator for North Liberty Angela McConville said. “North Liberty has three solar arrays already that power part of our city functions, so we like our sustainability.”
McConville, who will be arranging North Liberty’s first Solar Power Hour in May, said the city’s relatively lax regulations and new buildings that can handle solar panel installation further reinforce North Liberty as an ideal city to embrace the initiative.
Installation of solar arrays can begin as soon as residents sign up, and McConville said the process from sign up and estimate to installation is expected to be about 90 days. A threshold of applicants will be required before the Aug. 31 deadline to achieve the maximum rebate, but given the already strong interest in solar power among North Liberty residents, McConville said this should be easily achieved.
“We’re a young community. We’re an engaged community We’re a conscious community of people, so this is the target audience,” she remarked.
More information about the program is available at SolarizeJohnsonCounty.com.