A solar-powered tent was pitched on the state Capitol grounds on a cloudy Tuesday as part of an effort to get lawmakers thinking about creating a solar energy policy for Iowa.

An added enticement was a new report showing that solar energy could create nearly 5,000 jobs if Iowa adds 300 megawatts of solar power during the next five years.

That may sound like a lot of energy, but it’s only 8 percent of the 3,675 megawatts that wind power already produces in Iowa.

Iowa needs a solar energy goal, said David Osterberg of the Iowa Policy Project. The Iowa City think tank was a co-sponsor of solar activities at the Capitol. The event included an appearance by former University of Iowa and NFL star Tim Dwight, who is now a co-owner of a California solar development company.

Dwight told lawmakers that solar energy is a way for Iowans to take control of volatile energy markets.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, agreed.

Bolkcom is sponsoring a bill to create $10 million in solar financial incentives for homeowners and businesses.

He cited Iowa’s abundance of sunshine. “Solar energy grows billions of dollars of crops,” Bolkcom said. “That energy is free for the taking.”

Iowa was an early developer of wind power, Osterberg said. But the state is falling behind others in solar power and needs to catch up, he said.Along with new jobs, the addition of 300 megawatts of solar power would create more than $332 million of value in the Iowa economy, according to a report that Iowa Policy Project and others commissioned from Iowa State University economist David Swenson.

source: desmoinesregister