Although the concept of solar group purchase programs have been around nationally for nearly a decade, the first Solarize Program didn’t come to Iowa until around 2017. Now, nearly two years later, the City of Waukee, Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX), the Nature Conservancy in Iowa and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association all worked together to make the Solarize Waukee Program one of the first of its kind for the Central Iowa area.
“Waukee is a booming, growing community. With support from the City of Waukee and the Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience, Solarize Waukee was able to launch smoothly and allow the community to come together,” said Patrick Snell, the Nature Conservancy of Iowa External Affairs Coordinator.
As part of the program, Solarize Waukee provided educational events where community members could go to learn about the basics of solar energy, Solarize Waukee, and the benefits of participating in the program. Over 250 people attended these informational sessions, with about 29 households and 3 commercial businesses opting to take advantage of the lower rates.
“The objective of the program was to increase awareness and participation of solar energy in our community,” Tyler Wright of Waukee APEX said. “We wanted people to be educated but we also wanted to be able to provide less expensive solar energy.”
While many contractors applied to work with Solarize Waukee, only one (1 Source Solar) was chosen by a local advisory committee as the sole installer for the program. As part of the selection process, each installer was reviewed based on a variety characteristics. These potentially included the quality of products, quality of customer service, track record, and the ability to offer a competitive price, to name a few.
“Many installers applied and went through a competitive process, but ultimately we selected 1 Source Solar as our installer for the program. We couldn’t have been happier with 1 Source and their high-level knowledge of solar in Iowa,” Snell said.
At first, the program limited its eligibility to property owners within the Waukee Community School District. However, after adjacent towns showed a growing interest in the program, Solarize Waukee later extended its eligibility to include property owners throughout all of Dallas County.
“Originally we started with just Waukee. But, then we were getting a lot of interest in Waukee adjacent communities, and keeping our major objective in mind of increasing solar in our community, we extended who qualified to all of Dallas County,” Wright said.
Solarize Waukee kicked off in April 2019 and officially ended towards the end of August. Total savings from the program depended on the size of the system purchased, annual electrical usage, electricity rates and financing options, making the Solarize Waukee Program about 9 percent below the average market rate for Dallas County. Since together, participants hit a benchmark of 200kW of solar power, each household or business also received an additional rebate based on the amount of kilowatts installed.
“Bringing solar energy as an affordable option for residents and business owners made solar an asset in Waukee,” Snell said, “Although the program appealed more for residential households, Solarize Waukee allowed [both] home and commercial property owners to access competitive prices for solar installations through the power of volume purchasing.”
Solarize Waukee was administered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and was no cost to the city. With the success of the program this past summer, Snell also indicated that the Solarize group is open to the possibility of hosting another Dallas County program in the future. However, for the time being, the organizations are currently working to expand the Solarize program into other interested counties surrounding the Des Moines Metro area.