100 signatures reached
To: Iowa City Council and Iowa City Community School District
Solar Schools and Solar City Buildings in Iowa City
The City of Iowa City and the Iowa City Community School District should adopt a requirement for 20- 25 percent of projected school district and municipal electricity use to be provided by on-site solar energy by 2020.
Why is this important?
Thanks to a breakthrough Iowa Supreme Court decision last summer, which upheld the city of Dubuque’s right to install solar panels on municipal, school and non-taxed entities, third-party power purchase agreements for rooftop solar are spreading across Iowa.
But with tax credits set to expire in 2016, the clock is ticking for Iowa City and the Iowa City Community School District to take advantage of the savings from such power purchase agreements or pursue other solar power arrangements and ramp up our community’s commitment to clean energy, climate action and long-term savings.
Iowa City is on the move. The University of Iowa has issued a request for proposals for solar power purchase agreements, with the potential of installing solar arrays on five buildings, including the main library. UI also is moving on electric car charging stations and a thin film solar roof on the Cambus Maintenance Facility. Johnson County Supervisors anticipate a long-term savings on a pilot agreement for solar panels on the Secondary Roads Facility. At an Ecopolis Forum earlier this year, developer Kevin Hanick spoke about his Riverfront Crossings District apartment complex, which will include 700 rooftop solar panels. The city of Iowa City recently announced plans to purchase four solar-powered trash compactors.
Iowa is a national leader in wind energy, producing 28.4 percent of our electricity last year. While Iowa ranks 16th in the nation for solar potential, our state remains in the top third of states relying on dirty coal. Given the potentially catastrophic reality of climate change, and the huge external costs of our dependence on fossil fuels for the rest of our electricity, it’s time for the city and schools to take a leadership role in the transition to clean energy.
When we take our kids to school every morning, we are reminded of the students at the Wayland school, who switch on their lights generated from solar panels and save the small Waco School District an estimated $100,000 annually. In Austin, Minn., students not only power their computers and part of their electricity needs from solar panels, but are using them as learning tools in science and computer classes.
Thanks to declining prices, a new solar energy system is being installed every 2.5 minutes in the U.S. Churches in West Virginia are mounting solar panels; the Indianapolis airport recently installed 76,000 photovoltaic solar panels, generating energy, revenue and jobs. So, how does Iowa City move forward on solar in a timely manner?
First, we need bold leadership on the City Council and School Board. We need to get beyond more time-delaying studies that jeopardize opportunities with the expiring tax credits. The research has been done; solar companies are ready to bid; the external costs from waiting and burning dirty coal are growing. According to a recent assessment by a local solar company, more than 20 ICCSD buildings retrofitted with solar panels could generate electricity at market rates through third party power purchase agreements. Other options for long-term solar financing exist for the rest of the schools.
Second, we need benchmarks. The city of Iowa City and ICCSD should adopt a requirement for 25 percent of the projected district and municipal energy use to be provided by on-site renewable energy (solar, geothermal) within 2020. This should be required for all new construction and major renovations of city buildings and projects seeking city TIF funding that have a construction budget greater than $500,000 and city support greater than $75,000.
At recent Ecopolis Forums, hundreds of people signed petitions in support of such solar and energy efficiency benchmarks. As our city approves millions in TIFs for private development, let’s get a clean energy return on our investment.
At the same time, both the city and ICCSD should adopt a 2030 Challenge requirement for all new buildings and existing innovation projects to be designed and built to meet energy efficiency standards of 70 percent below the regional average EUI for that building type.
Iowa City’s bright shining future awaits. So do our kids, and the uncertainty of their future from climate change.