Solar push in Linn County could soon include first solar subdivision

The Hawks Point development in southwest Cedar Rapids.  This area has room for 80-100 new homes...
The Hawks Point development in southwest Cedar Rapids. This area has room for 80-100 new homes and the cleared area in back could be the site of a solar panel farm to provide electricity to all those new homes.(KCRG)
Published: Jul. 28, 2017 at 5:16 PM CDT
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A push to Solarize Cedar Rapids and Linn County hit a milestone this week.

Enough people have signed up for the bulk solar power installation program to start earning discounts for all participants.

The 13th solar array agreement this week pushed the cooperative program over the 50 kilowatt level. That means all those participating will earn a five cent per kilowatt rebate on the installations of their systems. As more people sign up, the rebates will go higher.

Adam Bumpus and his family were one of the first to take advantage of the solar power discounts. The rooftop solar system on their home was the first one installed under the city-county program that runs through September.

It’s generating comments and Bumpus says the more people see solar on homes the more interest it will generate.

“I think as people learn about it then it becomes easier and people will be interested in signing up and doing things on their own as well,” he said.

While this discount installation program is set to end in a couple of months, what’s actually next and new in solar in eastern Iowa could be an entire solar neighborhood.

The newest homes going up in the Hawks Point development in far southwestern Cedar Rapids don’t look much different from the newer homes already there.

But if the bids and financing work out, Randy Dostal of Thomas Dostal Developers hopes 80 to 100 of the next homes built will be solar powered.

He’s not talking about putting solar panels on a roof either.

Doster says he’s cleared a football field-sized area at one corner of the new subdivision to install a solar farm, much like the commercial ones put up by electrical cooperatives in eastern Iowa.

Dostal is talking about a potential $3-million dollar solar system with 3,000 individual panels to power all the homes.

And he has an idea who might be interested in a solar-powered home without the need for rooftop panels.

“I think there will a broad spectrum of clients. You have people who want green technology or renewables and you have people who simply want to save money,” Dostal said.

Dostal thinks the new homes powered by the solar farm will cost about $25,000 more than the similar homes already in the subdivision.

But in exchange, buyers would get about half that amount back the first year in solar tax credits and rebates. After that, the solar farm would provide about 70 percent of the electrical power needed every year meaning homeowners would save about $1,000 or so every year.

He hopes to start his solar farm installation in a manner of weeks.