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Cedar Rapids Embraces Renewable Energy

City in Iowa has received a gold rating for its solar use and has also been designated a Small Wind Designation Zone.

By Kim Madlom on December 8, 2021

Wind turbines in Iowa
iStock.com/arinahabich

Cedar Rapids’ interest and investment in alternative energy helped propel Iowa to the nation’s top spot for renewable energy use, and it was the first community in the state to receive a gold rating from SolSmart for making solar easy.

Solar Power in Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids uses solar power at four of its facilities – NW Transit Garage, Chandler Street Booster Station, Glass Road Booster Station and Oklahoma Avenue Booster Station. The 200 kilowatts powering these facilities save the city more than $10,000 annually.

In 2017, Cedar Rapids partnered in Iowa’s first Solar Group Buy, and 105 homes took advantage, installing a total of 605 kW of solar. In 2019, the city worked with Linn County and other partners to achieve 734 kW of total installations on 90 properties.

The ability of Linn County and Cedar Rapids leaders to work together is vital in achieving progress in solar energy strategies, says Peter Murphy, solar program director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which helped with each Solar Group Buy.

“A lot of this is helping people understand that what was once considered a future technology is very much something
being implemented today. Pricing and funding make
this technology accessible.”

Peter Murphy | Midwest Renewable Energy Association

“One of the unique things about the partnerships is that the representatives of those units of government are good at working together and working with other local municipalities,” Murphy says. “In doing that, they are able to raise awareness and inspire confidence in the program. That allows us to educate as many people as possible about solar and help them understand whether solar is right for them.”

The 2021 Solar Buy that began during the summer continued to attract local interest, with more than 400 people attending the presentation. By early August, 23 properties had signed on, adding 242 kW of solar power – halfway to the 500 kW goal.

Wind Energy in Cedar Rapids

In addition to solar, wind energy in Cedar Rapids and Linn County is also growing. In 2012, the county was designated a Small Wind Innovation Zone by the Iowa Utilities Board, allowing owners of small wind energy conversion systems (100 kW or less) access to an expedited local approval process. The county incentivizes property owners to construct small wind energy conversion systems.

In 2018, Linn County collaborated with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities to initiate a wind farm suitability study. The pursuit to use more alternative energy sources was fueled by a devastating flood in 2008 and a 2020 derecho – a widespread, straight-line windstorm – that wreaked havoc on Cedar Rapids. Disaster resources made available were invested in making Cedar Rapids a more sustainable, energy-efficient community.

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