Inflation Reduction Act Fact Sheet

Clean Energy Districts of Iowa IRA program factsheets. Click each thumbnail.   Other links and resources we think you might find valuable: ACEEE IRA Home Energy Upgrade Incentives IRS list of vehicles that may qualify for the 2023 Clean Vehicles $7,500 tax credit Rewiring America Inflation Reduction Act Fact Sheets

Electric Vehicle Charging in Winneshiek County

Publicly available electric vehicle charging has greatly improved in Winneshiek County and northeast Iowa. Within Decorah city limits, there are now sixteen level 2 chargers available for public use and two direct current fast chargers at Decorah Chevrolet. County- and region-wide, the situation has improved, too, with public chargers available in Calmar, Cresco, West Union, Lansing, and others. 

Level 2 chargers can recharge an EV in 3-8 hours depending on vehicle and charger speed, and are best suited for situations where people park their cars for extended periods of time, like workplaces, downtown areas, hotels, and locations catering to travelers. Level 3 fast chargers can fill an EV in as short as 20-30 minutes and are best positioned to support regional pass-through travel.

The transition to electric vehicles locally and regionally is still in its infancy, and it’s perhaps important to acknowledge the realities, and resulting benefits, of publicly available EV charging for this phase of the transition. First and foremost, a vast majority of those who have already made the transition to EVs or are currently contemplating doing so, have access to low-cost electricity in their garages and aren’t necessarily going to need public or workplace charging. In addition, EV ranges have grown by leaps and bounds over just the past few years. In 2023, the median range of available EV models was 270 miles, roughly on par or slightly below the gas-equivalent automobiles.

As a result, the need for workplace and publicly available charging for those living locally is perhaps less acute than it was several years ago when EVs were in their technological infancy. At the same time, when low-cost EV options become more widely available, the need for publicly available charging options for renters, condo owners, and generally those without access to home charging will grow.

Taken together, we believe Decorah and Winneshiek County are well-positioned to support the current phase of EV adoption. Below is a list of chargers available for public use in Winneshiek County along with the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh). For reference, most EVs achieve 2.5 – 4 miles of range per kWh of charge, and an EV with a range of 270 miles has a 60-80 kW battery.


Location Charge speed per hour Cost per kWh
Decorah Chevrolet, 2 chargers 180 kW $0.49
Weis GMC Decorah, level 3 coming soon coming soon
State Street across from Fareway, 2 chargers 10.4 kW $0.31
Downtown Decorah at Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce 21.6 kW $0.31
Downtown Decorah behind Oneota Coop, 4 chargers 7.2 kW $0.31
Winneshiek Medical Center, 2 chargers 6.6 kW $.30
Sunflower Child Development Center coming soon coming soon
Preus Library, Luther College, 2 chargers 6.6 kW $0.23
Luther College Regents Center, 2 chargers 5 kW $0.23
Downtown Calmar 17 kW $0.29
NICC Calmar Campus 7 kW $0.29


Pending Electric Rate Shocks: Make Your Voice Heard

Jim Martin-Schramm

Last fall, Alliant Energy sent a notice to customers about its application to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to increase rates.  

For many, Alliant’s notice might have been missed or swept into the recycling bin without much thought.  Not at Luther College.  Luther’s Director of Facilities Services immediately set about figuring out how Alliant’s rate increase would impact the college.  He was stunned.

Luther College is facing a 48.2% increase in its Alliant Energy bill if the IUB approves the company’s proposed electric rate increase as proposed.

“You can imagine my dismay when our Director of Facilities Services informed me that Alliant’s proposed electric rate increase would not increase our bill by 20%, as the company estimates in their customer notice, but rather by 36% under Phase I ($371,464) and an additional $85,700 after Phase II. The total increase is calculated to be $457,200 or 48.2% increase over our 2022-23 invoice totals,” said President Jenifer K. Ward in comments she sent to the Iowa Utilities Board on February 13, 2024.

President Ward goes on to say: “It feels like we are being punished for our investments in efficiency and renewables. We certainly are not being rewarded for reducing our demand on the grid and the production of energy during many of the peak hours of the day. . . . In my view, Alliant’s proposed increase is punitive and unjust. It will have a severe negative impact on Luther College, and the significant proposed increases for residential customers (13.4%)  and small businesses (20%) are going to harm Luther’s employees and Decorah’s vital downtown businesses.”

One of those downtown businesses is the award-winning restaurant, Rubaiyat.  An analysis performed by the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa (CEDI) has revealed that the restaurant is facing a 38% increase in its electricity bill, which is almost twice the 20% average increase Alliant has told businesses that they will experience.

“I’m just sick about the potential of that big of an increase. . .  I feel so helpless and frustrated,” said Rubaiyat’s co-owner, Kim Carlson-Bonnet.

Other analyses performed by CEDI for local businesses and institutions in the area indicate that some customers will likely have larger increases than the average 20% increase the company has projected. The same will likely be true for residential customers.

One of the things driving Alliant’s increased costs is the cost of electricity in the summer.  For residential customers, it is scheduled to increase 57.4% from 11.685 cents/kWh in 2023 to 18.408 cents/kWh once the rate increase has been fully phased in. This will significantly increase the energy burden for households living paycheck to paycheck and for those in large homes and/or those with inefficient air conditioning systems. 

For businesses taking service under Alliant’s non-residential general service tariff, electricity will increase 87% from 11.916 cents/kWh to 22.295 cents/kWh.  Some businesses will see their summer electricity bills more than double.

These increased costs will be significantly exacerbated by Alliant’s proposal to eliminate declining cost block pricing for residential and commercial customers.  The cost increase will be mitigated slightly by Alliant’s decision to limit summer rates to June, July, and August, which is one month less than is currently the case.

Alliant’s proposal to raise electric rates is its third in seven years, and the largest in its history.  Alliant’s residential rates are almost the highest in the State of Iowa and third highest in the Midwest among investor-owned utilities of similar size.

If you are concerned about how this rate increase could affect your home or business, make your voice heard.  The Iowa Utilities Board encourages all citizens and ratepayers to voice their perspectives to the Board by submitting comments by email to or by mail to Iowa Utilities Board, 1375 E. Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319-0069.  All communication should reference Docket RPU-2023-0002 in the subject line of the email or letter.

The Clean Energy Districts of Iowa is an official intervenor in the Alliant electric rate case as the CEDI Coalition, which currently consists of 47 communities who oppose the magnitude of Alliant’s proposed rate increase.  To date, 83 communities have filed with the IUB a resolution drafted by CEDI opposing the rate increase. The City of Decorah was the first to sign the resolution and to join the CEDI Coalition.

I urge you to make your voice heard at the Iowa Utilities Board.  The first round of testimony is due on April 16 and the legal hearing will take place at the IUB July 9-12.  The Board will likely issue its final decision and order shortly thereafter.  


Jim Martin-Schramm is on the Board of the Winneshiek Energy District.  He also serves as a Policy Analyst for the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa and as the manager of the CEDI Coalition.

Decorah Family Saves by Installing Heat Pump Water Heater

Decorah’s Kim and Mary Glock recently upgraded their 50-gallon electric resistance water heater to an electric hybrid heat pump water heater, resulting in energy savings of about $650 annually. Follow along as we outline their journey.

The Glock’s new 50-gallon AO Smith hybrid heat pump water, installed for $3,400 before incentives

Water heating accounts for nearly 18% of energy use within the typical home, second only to space heating. The cost of heating all that water varies greatly depending on the type of fuel used. For example, the annual operating cost of a natural gas water heater is about $240, whereas an electric water heater costs about $650 a year. Having been in dozens, if not hundreds of area basements, I can tell you there are a lot of electric water heaters out there. Unfortunately, many new houses are still being built with electric resistance versions because the equipment is less expensive to install but they are far and away more expensive to operate.

Enter the hybrid heat pump water heater. Heat pump water heaters utilize an air source heat pump paired with a conventional electric resistance element for when the heat pump can’t meet demand. Physically, a heat pump version is not any different than a regular water heater, except that compared to some “lowboy” and short versions, they’re a bit taller.  In addition, they require condensate management because, as the heat pump operates, it produces condensate that must be gravity-drained or transferred with a condensate pump. Compared to a traditional electric water heater, however, they’re about 300% efficient, or in other words, use about 1/3 of the electricity.

RMI recently released a state-by-state analysis of the lifetime emissions of heat pumps for both space and water heating. They estimate that installing a heat pump water heater yields total lifetime emissions reductions of 75% compared to a gas version.

In my conversations with Kim and Mary Glock in preparation for this piece, they reiterated over and over the operational savings. According to Kim, “We’ve tried to do what we think is right…by replacing lighting with LEDs and appliances with Energy Star versions. But to be entirely honest, in doing those things we’ve really never noticed any electric bill savings, except for the water heater. We installed it, and by the next month our household kWh usage was cut in half.” Granted, savings probably aren’t that dramatic for most families, but for a household of two that is otherwise frugal, the savings can be dramatic.

Nevertheless, there are a few drawbacks to consider. First, since the tank and heat pump are contained in the same unit, it needs to be placed in a space volumetrically large enough to draw heat. The specifications vary by manufacturer but, generally speaking, the room the water heater sits in should be larger than a broom closet, and ideally in the same space as a furnace or boiler. Rheem recommends a space no less than 7’x10’x10’ in dimensions, but other manufacturers have requirements that are about half that. If those space constraints can’t be met, and all that’s available is a tiny water heater closet, consider adding a closet door with air louver vents.

Secondly, since heat pump water heaters heat water by utilizing energy contained within the indoor ambient air, they shouldn’t be installed in fully unconditioned (cold) basements. Minimum ambient operating temperature cutouts for the heat pump vary by manufacturer, but generally the heat pump will stop working if the air around it drops below 37-40°F. So, if you’re like me with a cold and poorly insulated basement, or currently have your water heater in the garage, a heat pump version might not be for you. If temperatures drop below the manufacturer-specified heat pump cutout, the water heater will continue to function, but only with the integrated electric resistance element, resulting in operational efficiencies on par with a conventional electric water heater.

Given available rebates and tax incentives, heat pump water heaters can make a lot of sense. Generally speaking, if switching from an existing electric water heater to a heat pump version, you might expect to spend $3,500 on a replacement. If you’re switching from natural gas, expect to spend $3,500 plus the additional cost of running a 30A-240V power supply, which likely increases the total installed cost to around $4,000. Factoring in available incentives, a heat pump hot water heater costs on par or slightly less than the gas alternative, and that’s even before factoring in energy savings over time.

The new 25C Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit allows homeowners to deduct 30% of project costs up to $2,000 for the installation of heat pumps for space and water heating. Local utility rebates vary, but generally are available from $225 to $300 per unit. And beginning late this year or early next year, the federal Home Electrification and Appliance Rebate, as part of the two-year-old Inflation Reduction Act, will potentially provide up to $1,750 off the installed cost. With the new rebate program, many households will be able to switch to heat pump versions at little or no cost.

Below is an example analysis of installing a heat pump water heater, not accounting for the soon-to-be IRA rebate, which might sweeten the pot by an additional $1,750.

The City of Decorah’s Partnership with CEDI Receives a Major Federal Grant

On October 12, 2023, the Department of Energy announced that the City of Decorah, in partnership with the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, has been awarded $1.1 million in funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Competitive Program. 

The EECBG Program is designed to assist states, local governments, and Tribes in implementing strategies to reduce energy use, to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and to improve energy efficiency.  

There are three facets to the EECBG program.  Cities and counties with populations over 50,000 receive automatic allocations via a Formula Grant program.  Cities and counties with populations under 50,000 can apply for EECBG funding through their State Energy Office.  In addition, there is a national Competitive Program for EECBG funding.

The City of Decorah was one of only twelve communities around the nation that were chosen to receive funding from this national funding opportunity.


As the Prime Applicant, the City of Decorah will work in close partnership with the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa (CEDI), which will manage the project and provide technical assistance to help local governments and school districts benefit from the clean energy transition and to reduce energy burdens in low-income households in several counties in Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin. 

The project area features eight rural counties with clean energy districts where neither the county nor the incorporated cities are eligible for EECBG formula grants. The list includes Vernon County in Wisconsin, which includes Ho-Chunk Nation land, and seven counties in Iowa: Allamakee, Winneshiek, Howard, Clayton, Delaware, Jackson, and Tama County, which includes land owned by the Meskwaki Tribe.  The relevant counties are highlighted in green on the map below:

EECBG funding will be used to hire two energy planners and an engineer to provide vital technical assistance to municipalities, school districts, and low-income households throughout the project area so that they can make cost-effective investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

In August 2023, CEDI surveyed 228 mayors, city clerks, city managers, school district superintendents, and other key leaders in the eight-county project area.  The responses revealed that 95% are interested in receiving assistance via the EECBG funding.

Due to the recent passage of the Building and Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), there is currently an unprecedented amount of funding available at the federal and state levels for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Unfortunately, few people know how to access these funds and how best to utilize them.  

EECBG funding will be used to identify cost-effective investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy and to help project participants identify and utilize various financial resources to make these investments. These resources include:

  • Federal tax credits, including the use of the elective payment option for non-profits, as well as relevant bonus “adders” for solar projects in low-income, tribal, and/or energy communities.
  • Third-party power purchase agreements, which tap the federal tax credits but also utilize other tax benefits available to for-profit entities such as accelerated depreciation.  Municipal governments and other non-taxable entities that sign these agreements no longer have to address the financing obstacle and typically enjoy substantial energy cost savings. These agreements are legal in Iowa but not yet in Wisconsin. Several municipal governments, school districts, and other non-taxable entities have already utilized this option–mostly in and near Winneshiek County (IA). 
  • Rebates provided by the Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-House Rebates (HOMES) program and the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate (HEEHR) program administered by the State Energy Offices in Iowa and Wisconsin.
  • USDA programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants as well as the Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants.
  • Services and equipment incentives provided by the energy efficiency programs offered by area utilities.
  • Additional financial resources that may be available through regional housing trust funds and community foundations.

The City of Decorah and CEDI are currently in a 60-day grant award negotiation period with the EECBG Program since the original grant proposed using $1.56 million in EECBG funding over three years but the program could only provide $1.1 million.  As a result, it is likely that the funding will be spread over 28 months rather than 36 months.  We expect the program to commence in January 2024.

CEDI will soon provide more information about how communities in Iowa can apply for EECBG funding from Iowa’s State Energy Office.

This is the second major award to the City of Decorah by the EECBG program.  In 2010, the program provided the city with $880,000–over half of which was used by the Winneshiek Energy District to provide energy planning services to the residents of Winneshiek County and to develop the replicability of the energy district model.  

Today there are twelve legally incorporated energy districts located in Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Howard, Jackson, Johnson, Linn, Muscatine, Polk, and Winneshiek County.  Additional counties are in the planning stages.  

Contact CEDI’s Policy Analyst, Jim Martin-Schramm, for more information.

Decorah Family Cuts the Gas Line and Goes All Electric

Guest Story by Laura Peterson

Earlier this month our energy utility came to shut off our natural gas connection. Usually, having your gas service cut off means either you’re moving to a new house or you’re way behind on your bills. But in our case, it’s because we’ve eliminated all gas appliances in our home. Over the last few years, we’ve undergone a transition to an all-electric household. Here is how it worked in our home, in the hopes that you might find something useful here if you’re considering electrification in your own.

We live in a 1950’s ranch home of about 1350 square feet, with additional area in our partially finished basement. The first steps we took after moving in were to add attic insulation and to do basic air sealing around doors, windows, and the basement rim joist. In conjunction with air sealing, we also installed an air exchanger to manage moisture in the house. 

A few years later, we were able to install solar panels on our roof. We followed the advice of our electrician to upgrade our electrical service to a 200 amp panel at the same time, in anticipation of increasing our electric load for heating and eventually electric vehicles. 

Next we looked at household heating. Our house was previously heated by a gas furnace with forced hot air. We also had a central air conditioning unit. Both our furnace and air conditioner dated to the early 1990’s, and since heat pumps can both heat and cool, one advantage of a heat pump was that we could replace our furnace and air conditioner with a single appliance. We also knew we wanted to stop burning fossil fuels in our home. This also led us to favor an all-electric heat pump over another gas furnace or a dual natural gas-heat pump system.

We consulted with the Energy District to get estimates of our household heating demand that would help us know how to select and size our system. In late 2021 we had our gas furnace and air conditioner removed, and installed a ducted, 3 ton heat pump system in their place. The outdoor unit looks similar to an air conditioner, and the indoor air handler, installed in our basement, fit directly into existing duct work.

After this, the only remaining gas appliance in our house was our water heater. This meant that the vast majority of our monthly gas bill was the connection fee, so it made a lot of sense for us to take the final step to fully electrify our household. The ability to take advantage of a federal tax credit (30% of the project) through the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as a $300 utility rebate, made the cost of a new heat pump water heater comparable to a gas-fired water heater. So, this fall we removed our gas-fired water heater and replaced it with a heat pump water heater, eliminating our natural gas usage entirely. 


Does the heat pump provide enough heat on its own in cold weather?

Yes. Our heat pump is rated to -13°F. Though it runs less efficiently at such cold temperatures, it can still meet our heating demand. It also has a built-in back-up system (electric resistance heating coils) for even colder temperatures. We do burn wood in a small woodstove for supplemental heat, but we know from the experience of being out of town during a run of very cold days last winter that the heat pump can do the job on its own even if we’re not at home to feed the woodstove.

What is the living experience like?

For the most part, our electric appliances are as invisible to us on a daily basis as their gas counterparts were before. Hearing the heat pump outside our kitchen window in the winter is similar to hearing an outdoor A/C unit in the summer, and neither the air source heat pump or the heat pump hot water heater are noticeably louder than our other appliances. The heat pump is actually considerably quieter than our old A/C unit except in very cold temperatures.

One change we’ve made during the winter is to use a smaller thermostat setback at night. We do this keep the heating demand steady rather than demanding the most heat during the coldest part of the day, since unlike a gas furnace, the efficiency of the heat pump changes as the outdoor temperature changes.

We do notice a drop in temperature in our basement laundry room, where our heat pump water heater is installed, since the heat pump is essentially transferring heat from the surrounding air to create the hot water. The temperature drop is not extreme, however, and in the summer months, the same effect will provide additional cooling.

How did our utility bills change?

Determining how electrification has changed our utility bills is complicated by the fact that we also installed solar panels shortly before we had the heat pump installed. But we have gotten some sense of the difference by looking at our electric usage directly. 

With the installation of the heat pump, our annual electric usage went up by around 20%, or the equivalent of around $200/year. A good portion of our increased electricity use during the winter was offset by much lower electricity use during the summer, since the new heat pump is much more efficient than the old air-conditioning unit it replaced (with the new system, our summertime electric usage was reduced by close to 50%). 

The Energy Guide estimate for our heat pump hot water heater is that our hot water will cost roughly $120/year. This is far lower than what we had been paying (around $400/year) for hot water and our gas connection. 

All told, if we didn’t have solar panels, it looks like our electric bills after full electrification would be similar to and perhaps slightly lower than before. Even though electricity tends to be more expensive than gas, the savings we get from disconnecting our gas line entirely, and from the high efficiency of heat pump appliances, seem to compensate for our greater electricity use.

Are the carbon dioxide emissions from our increased electricity use lower than our previous CO2 emissions from natural gas burning?

Yes. Even though there are carbon dioxide emissions associated with the coal and natural gas that are burned to produce a portion of the electricity we use, the switch from gas to heat pumps in isolation would bring our CO2 emissions down by about 30% if we were purchasing all of our electricity. With the combination of electrification and rooftop solar, we’ve reduced our household carbon footprint by a total of about 80%. 

The exciting part is that now that we have all-electric infrastructure in our household, our carbon footprint will continue to decrease as the electric grid itself greens. According to the website of Alliant Energy, our electric provider, the company currently ‘aspires’ to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But with an increasing number of utilities across the country setting 2030 as a target date for net-zero systems, perhaps the day is not too far off when our all-electric house will also be carbon neutral.

Moving the Needle: How One Rural Congregation Electrified its Building and Secured its Future

Guest Story by Jim and Liz Fritz, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Decorah, Iowa

Is it possible for a small Midwestern Lutheran congregation to go from eight natural gas furnaces to eight heat pumps and create all needed energy, via solar, needed to run them in only 4 years? It is possible, and it’s happening right now!

The Background

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Decorah was founded in 1958 on land that was formally a sheep pasture. Plans were drawn for the current Fellowship Hall and the Education Wing. These structures were built in late 1958-early 1959, and the present Fellowship Hall was used as the Sanctuary. In 1988, Good Shepherd added a significant addition west of the existing buildings, including a large Sanctuary, offices, meeting spaces, and bathrooms.

The original building was built in 1958 and heated with fuel oil. For oil storage, a 2,000-gallon tank was buried in the yard behind the building. When natural gas became available, the switch was made with new gas furnaces (sometime in the late 1960s). These furnaces included 3-4 ton natural gas downdraft forced air furnaces. The furnaces were ducted into clay flues that lay in the soil (uninsulated!) below the slab of the entire building. By 2018 these furnaces were dead/dying, and the fuel bills were significant.

Good Shepherd, after completion of 1988 addition

In 2018 the Good Shepherd Church congregation took on an extensive remodeling project to update the 1958 HVAC system and renovate the 1958 Education Wing. The congregation decided to gut and reconfigure the Education Wing and undertake a geothermal/heat pump retrofit of the entire 1958 facility.

Jim Fritz was extensively involved in the 2019 remodeling project and, following advice from Joel Zook from Winneshiek Energy District, convinced the congregation that we should invest in a ground-source LG heat pump system using VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) delivery.

In 2019 four LG ground source heat pumps were installed in the original 1958 facilities. The original sheep pasture behind the building has 17 horizontal bore lines (approximately 10′ below grade). These geo lines enter the building and connect to four new LG geothermal heat pumps. These LG units use VRF piping (Variable Refrigerant Flow) to feed individual units in rooms, hallways, etc.

Left, ground-source heat pumps, Right, schematic of 17 horizontal ground loops

The Good Shepherd Church has some unique characteristics. It has no basement and no attic. The entire facility is on one level. Traditional forced ductwork was not an option. The size of the ductwork needed was not possible in this situation. These VRF lines (think exactly like your air conditioner lines) run through small wall chases in ceiling cavities and created architectural chases that are not restrictive like traditional forced air delivery needs.

There are other advantages to the VRF delivery system. The system is uber-efficient (more later) and easy to install lines in existing facilities. But, another advantage is individual room zoning. One room can have air conditioning while another has heat, for example, which helps increase the efficiency of the overall facility.

The Ideas

As Jim dug deeper into the facilities at Good Shepherd Church, he realized that the roof-mounted HVAC units on the 1988 Sanctuary addition were also getting past their prime efficiency. Three of the four were original to the building, and yearly service repair costs were not inconsequential. Additionally, they were an eyesore on the roof at the front of the building.  He knew it was only a matter of time before there would be failures.

During this realization, Jim started dreaming about better utilization of an outdoor space directly south of the existing Education Wing and Fellowship Hall. That area was grass and had several large Maple trees. There was another existing and significant problem, as this was the space were the water was being dumped from the facilities’ flat roofs. This eventually killed the trees and was a concern for the building foundation.  The questions included, how can that space replace our furnaces? He had ideas, but the question was: How to implement them?

The Solution

The solution for this project came from many conversations. Jim and Liz Fritz worked with local mentors Larry Grimstad, Andy Johnson, Joel Zook, Jim Martin-Schramm, Amy Bouska, and others to brainstorm and dream about the possibilities for this project. They worked to create and develop a business plan forming an LLC called Mission Green LLC (a mission with a company). Would a carbon-neutral project fit in with their ideas? Can you grow a business using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)? Could this idea/business model allow Good Shepherd to lower energy bills and their carbon footprint? Could this include some of the ideas for the outdoor space?

The result of these conversations and questions was a proposal from Mission Green to enable a Carbon Neutral Project for Good Shepherd. Mission Green would create a business relationship with the Good Shepherd congregation, whereas we would:

  1. Sell them the electricity at lower fixed costs through a PPA.
  2. Eliminate their use of carbon-based fuels by installing and leasing heat pumps, while removing the eyesores on the roof.
  3. Provide an opportunity to fix the water problems of the outdoor space (French drain).
  4. Update/upgrade all service entrances to the entire facility.
  5. Provide solar panels for rooftop installation (21 kW, 52 bi-facial).
  6. Provide a 37’x37′ solar canopy (27 kW, 50 bi-facial panels) with a waterproof racking system on a Douglas Fir post and beam pergola.
  7. Install a permeable paver courtyard directly over the French drain, with sound and light amenities.

These contracts dictated Mission Green would receive monthly payments from the PPA for kWh generation and heat pump lease payments from Good Shepherd for six years. Mission Green will monitor the output/usage of the Good Shepherd facilities. At the end of the PPA, the congregation will buy out the PPA solar portion of the project at fair market value. After the buyout, Good Shepherd will own all the infrastructure to heat/cool/illuminate the entire facility, all on-site.

The Mission Green proposal was approved at a Congregational Meeting on June 5, 2022, when a vote was taken. The proposal was approved by 99-4.

Mission Green Website,

Moving Forward

Supply chain issues completely stalled the project into late 2022. Finally, the new service entrance and the rooftop solar (21 kW, 52 panels), on the white EPDM roof of the Education Wing, installed in late October 2022.

21kW Rooftop solar installation, October 2022

Three new 5-ton LG air-to-air heat pumps were installed in the 1988 addition in late December 2022 and early January 2023. They were officially online by January 15, 2023. The installation also included a 15 kW resistive electric heat backup unit, an industrial steam humidifying unit, and a high-end air filter utilizing UV, electrostatic, and filtration. Every room is individually zoned. One week after the switch to the new air-to-air heat pumps, there were a few nights of -17 below. At 7 am the following day, the facility still registered at the set point of 67 degrees.

Heat pumps are an important element in this project. The four 1958 building geothermal heat pumps are 450% efficient (due to the geothermal factor). The three 5-ton air-to-air heat pumps installed in the 1988 addition are still 350% efficient with no boring required!

Three 5-ton LG air source heat pumps serving the 1988 addition

Water Issues

The new courtyard below the solar pergola accomplished quite a bit for the project. Construction included removing the 2,000 gallon fuel oil barrel and the relocation of an outdated, unsightly Alliant Energy transformer.  The congregation decided it was in the best interest of the existing structure that the water issue be dealt with at this time. The congregation voted to pay for the recommended construction of the French drain. Good Shepherd Charter member Lindsay Erdman provided the official designs for the French drain. Legacy Concrete/Finholt Construction and Pinter Landscaping did the work.

Removal of the 1958 2,000 gallon fuel oil tank

This project included excavation to a prescribed 42″ depth. Unfortunately, we couldn’t anticipate the size of the old fuel oil barrel in that location. It was buried nearly 7′ deep and roughly 15′ long, requiring filling and compacting gravel every 5″ of rise. There is approximately 200 ton of compacted, crushed stone below this courtyard.

Local craftsman, Dale Kittelson, created the Douglas Fir post and beam pergola structure.

Construction of the doug fir pergola

Mission Green installed a permeable paver courtyard above the French drain and below the post and beam solar pergola to better reflect on the bi-facial solar panels. A stylized cross, copied from the 1958 architectural drawing for the original building, was added to the courtyard’s center. Mission Green installed architectural LED lighting and an outdoor sound system. This area will become a significant new space for events at Good Shepherd while adding to the efficiency of solar production.

The permeable paver courtyard speaks to the design elements of the original 1958 church

 The Solar Pergola

The racking system for the solar pergola is the real gem of the entire solar facility. It is from the Couillard Solar Foundation of Deerfield, WI. Cal Couillard, the CEO, formerly owned a large aluminum extrusion manufacturing factory. He sold it to a multi-national company and used portions of the sales receipts to establish a solar foundation that donates solar arrays to non-profits in Wisconsin. Cal developed and patented (pending) the anodized aluminum extrusion racking system that supports the pergola solar array. It is simple, super strong, elegant compared to the industry, and adaptable for various use cases.

Mission Green sought assistance from the Winneshiek Energy District and of Decorah.  We used local contractors extensively: Decorah Electric -Joel Teslow, Vick’s Heating and Plumbing – Steve Klemme, Legacy Concrete/Finholt Construction – Seth Klotzbach, Kittleson Woodworks – Dale Kittelson, Pinter Landscaping – Shane Pinter, Reed Fitton, and Tom Bourcier. There was also a list of volunteers too long to name. THANK YOU to all!!

Carbon Neutral Project Accomplished

Good Shepherd is now 100% electric. The gas meter was removed in February 2023. The Good Shepherd Carbon Neutral Project has replaced the fossil fuel HVAC system with four geothermal heat pumps, three air-to-air heat pumps, and a mini-split unit. It can heat/air condition the entire facility using solar electricity, all created onsite. LED lighting throughout the whole campus also reduces the overall electrical needs. Other efforts by the congregation to lower their Carbon Footprint include planting over 20 trees in the campus greenspace and considering adding a prairie wildflower/pollinator garden.

Current projections indicate that the 55 kW of onsite solar will provide 99.2% of needs. Current energy needs are now being met via solar production, and Alliant Energy Corp has granted us Full Net Metering. We’ll monitor the system for 12-18 months, but our hope/goal/aim is also to be Net Zero or even Net Positive.

Once the PPA and lease are completed, the congregation can use previous energy dollars for mission dollars instead. We’re proud of our combined efforts to Move the Needle in the fight against climate change.

With new national incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act (the IRA bill), this work is eligible for a 30% tax credit. The new Act also allows non-profits to recover this credit, which wasn’t possible when Good Shepherd joined Mission Green for this project. The current national programs are the best possible “sale” of renewable energy options in our lifetimes. Now is the time to act!! Let’s move the needle!





Can I buy an EV, Already?!

According to’s 2023 Electric Vehicle Survey, new car buyers’ top concerns with EVs include sky-high prices, range limitations, and a lack of public charging. As their data suggests, year-over-year progress has been made on all three of these fronts, with consumers increasingly warming to the idea of EV purchases.  Nevertheless, significant obstacles remain. The average MSRP of an EV has narrowed relative to that of gas powered models, albeit

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Does Solar Increase the Resale Value of Your House?

When it comes to buying and selling a home, what exactly is the value of solar? Does having solar panels on your roof actually increase your home’s value at the time of sale? How can you help potential buyers understand that your solar array will save them lots of money over time?

Solar as an asset and solar basics 

For most residential customers, solar is a straightforward and easy to understand investment. Installation prices have come down tremendously, net metering rules are favorable for customer owned generation (net metering is the ability to transfer excess power back to the grid and receive credit for it at retail rates for use in your home at a later time), resulting in short payback periods. For residential customers in Decorah, the return on investment of solar is as short as seven years, and the value of installing solar versus not installing solar can be worth many, many tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a system.

According to a 2019 analysis by Zillow, homes with solar sell for 4.1% more than homes without solar, resulting in a median sale price enhancement of $9,274. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis found that solar increases a home’s value $20 for every $1 reduction in utility bills. In other words, a solar system that produces $1,000 worth of electricity annually corresponds to an increased value of $20,000. Whether these numbers hold true or not depends on many factors, and to a large degree on how your realtor markets the presence of panels on your roof.

Solar, listing price, and the fact that money talks

Talk to any realtor and you’ll quickly learn that the presence of solar doesn’t directly translate into increased value. Just because you’ve spent $20,000 on solar doesn’t mean that value holds weight to anyone else. The same can be said for other energy-related pursuits, like electrification projects (heat pumps to replace fossil-burning furnaces, gas stove swap outs, etc), energy efficiency measures or energy-conscious construction and design decisions. First and foremost, prospective buyers are looking for shelter, and oftentimes energy efficiency is taken as an added plus. That said, home buyer surveys show energy efficiency is increasingly on the minds of homebuyers. 

With so many arrays installed locally (in excess of 500 in Winneshiek County alone!), it’s common to see real estate listings highlighting solar in various ways, with some recent listings mentioning “newly installed solar to help you save on energy costs” to “large 14 kW solar array…provides for peak energy efficiency. Average costs: Gas=$54/mo. – Electric=$73/mo.”. 

Whether a realtor actually understands the monetary value of solar or how to calculate it is an open question. Take the previous two examples: Back-of-the-napkin estimates reveal annual electricity production valued at $950 and $3,100 respectively, yet neither state this in the listing description. In both cases, the annual value of electricity produced is equal to about one month’s mortgage payment (assuming 15% down with a 30 year mortgage at 7% interest). That’s a lot of money!

Solar + Efficiency

Say you’ve installed solar, heat pumps and upgraded the electrical system and are ready to sell your house. How does one go about conveying the value of that? Unlike solar, heat pumps and other electrification upgrades don’t have a clearly defined returns on investment, other than potential savings in cost of operation and potential health benefits of not combusting gas in the home. According to one realtor I spoke to in anticipation of this article, selling energy efficiency or renewable energy, in theory, shouldn’t be much different than selling a new kitchen or a tiled bath. It’s about telling a story of lower energy costs and a healthier home.

To that end it’s important your realtor understands the potential value of electrification upgrades. Heat pump water heaters are cheaper to operate than their natural gas, liquid propane or electric resistance counterparts. Heat pumps for space heating are often at cost parity with natural gas, and cheaper to operate than liquid propane, and depending on configuration, provide unparalleled cooling comfort and efficiency. In addition, induction stoves have clear health benefits over gas stoves.

The value enhancement of solar is quite obvious, so long as it’s being conveyed in terms of dollar savings both annually and over the lifetime of the equipment; surveys by Zillow and others confirm as much. Whether other electrification activities add value the way solar does is less clear, and given that, it’s important realtors understand potential cost of operation and health benefits of electric appliances and HVAC equipment.


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