The Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling this morning that a Dubuque solar energy company did not act as a public utility when it attempted to enter into a third-party power purchase agreement with the city of Dubuque, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported

In a split decision, the court ruled, 4-2, with one abstention, in favor of Eagle Point Solar in the case filed against the Iowa Utilities Board. The ruling is expected to clear the way for additional municipalities or nonprofits, which cannot directly claim solar tax credits, to buy solar energy from non-utility third parties and take advantage of the credits.

"It's a big deal for small business," Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, told the Business Record. "I know there are a lot of people in the solar industry who are really happy about how this is going to promote solar energy."

Third party power purchase agreements are an important tool for expanding renewable energy in the state, along with tax incentives, loans, grants and other financing vehicles, he said. 

The court found that the power purchase agreement didn't infringe on Alliant Energy Corp.'s exclusive operating area. The city had planned to have Eagle Point Solar install solar panels on a city-owned building. Energy harvested through the panels would be sold to the city, through a third party, and used to supply some of the building's electricity.

Though the solar-generated electricity would not have passed through Alliant meters, Alliant officials claimed the agreement violated terms of its exclusive operating rights agreement.