Author Archives: Kyle Wehnes

IPS Solar Ribbon Cutting & Open House

 

After years of attending our clients’ ribbon cuttings, we have decided to host our own! As you may know, every year we like to open up our office doors and let the party commence with an open house event for all our friends, family, clients, and community members. This year, our IPS Solar Open House, will also serve as a ribbon cutting celebration for our new 20kW rooftop array. Join us at our Roseville offices on Thursday, Sept. 12 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. for a fun night of festivities.

The evening will include a ribbon cutting ceremony, tours of the array, indoor and outdoor activities (including cornhole, foosball, and a dunk tank competition), and of course, some tasty eats from local favorite Afro Deli that you can wash down with brews from IPS clients: Insight Brewing, ABLE Brewery & Seedhouse and Utepils Brewing!

We hope to see you there! I mean – you don’t miss this opportunity to possibly dunk your favorite IPS employee.

RSVP Here!

IPS Solar Makes Top National Contractors List for 7th Straight Year

Solar Power World Magazine released their annual 2019 solar industry rankings and awards on Tuesday, July 23, and we are thrilled to be included for the 7th year in a row! This year IPS Solar was honored with the Greenest Contractor Award along with receiving high rankings in multiple categories! Check out the full list here

IPS Solar ranked 51st on the overall national solar contractor list and 12th among national solar developers. This year we ranked as the #1 solar developer in the entire Midwest and also snagged the award for Greenest Contractor in the Nation!

The Greenest Contractor Award celebrates a contractor making their company and community as environmentally friendly as possible. We’ve always strived to be ‘green’ in all aspects of our business, but we looked to improve even further in 2018.  At our office, we installed our very own 20kW rooftop solar array along with electric vehicle charging stations for employees and customers. Our lobby facade has been reconstructed using only locally reclaimed wood. We continued our commitment to planting pollinator-friendly habits at all of our community solar sites and lease solar garden land to local apiaries so they can build bee colonies. Some of the honey cultivated from these bee colonies has even made its way into local beers and ciders!  

Additionally, Solar Power World Magazine highlighted our community focused solar project located at Shiloh Temple in North Minneapolis. The article touches on our efforts to make solar more inclusive and our commitment to addressing the inequities surrounding community solar. Read the entire article here

The Top Solar Contractors list is developed by Solar Power World to recognize the work completed by solar contractors across the United States. Produced annually, the Top Solar Contractors list celebrates the achievements of U.S. solar developers, subcontractors and installers within the utility, commercial and residential markets, and ranks contractors by kilowatts installed in the previous year. IPS Solar was responsible for installing 35,555 kW of solar power in 2018.

We can’t thank Solar Power World Magazine enough for their recognition and want to congratulate all those included in this year’s list! We are so proud to be a part of this great industry, and we can’t wait for another successful year!

Thanks For Celebrating the Solstice With Us!

Thank you to all those who attended and supported our first annual Solstice Solarbration Community Fundraiser benefiting MN350, Climate Generation, and MNIPL. It was such a pleasure to partner with these nonprofits and hear their amazing stories.

We are THRILLED to announce that we raised over $4,300 for these great causes! Of course, your support of these nonprofits doesn’t have to stop here! You’re welcome to make additional donations or volunteer your time and support at each organization’s website.

We are extremely thankful for our presenting sponsor MnSEIA and our supporting sponsors Sundial Energy, New Energy Equity, EganCo, EMS Partners, CPS, CED Greentech, and Werner Electric! Without the support of incredible organizations like these, we would not have been able to throw the luau of a lifetime and support critical environmental efforts right here in Minnesota.

Check out some of our favorite pictures from the 2019 Solstice Solarbration at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in NE Minneapolis! Tropical drinks, festive games, unique raffles, and island music – We hope you had as much fun as all of us. Share your event pictures with us by using #mnsolarbration19.

Solar Panel Recycling: How it Works

 

Written By Megan McDonald

Since most solar installs have occurred recently and panels can last for over 25 years, solar panel recycling hasn’t become a major issue yet. Nevertheless, as time goes on the need for recycling solutions will increase. It is important for a ‘green’ industry, like ours, to focus on the end of a solar project’s lifespan so that so that we can prevent landfills from overflowing with panels in a few decades.

At the moment there aren’t a ton of well-developed panel recycling programs in the US, but there are still some options for home or business owners. One important thing to note is that if your panels are still under warranty, it is the responsibility of the installer or manufacturer to handle the disposal process. So, if your recently installed panels need to be recycled, give your installation company a call and they will provide service per your warranty contract.

If your panels aren’t under warranty, you still have recycling options. One of those options is to bring your panels to a professional “green” recycling company. Often times, you will be able to find info on these companies on the recycling and waste section of your local county website. For example, Ramsey County’s website lists three recycling companies that accept solar panels.

Lastly, while it is not actually illegal to throw panels in the trash, it is very much not preferred! Don’t throw away used panels unless you are out of other options!

Once the panels get to a facility the process of actually breaking them down and recycling them can be quite complex. This is because the different components that the panels are made of are difficult to separate. Panel components include Silicon from the solar cells, metal framing, glass sheets, wires, and Plexiglas. Separating those materials and recycling them each in a unique way is a complex and potentially expensive process.

It’s only a matter of time before solar panel recycling in the US becomes more accessible. If you want to see what that might look like, you just need to look across the pond at Europe. Europe’s solar boom took place several years before the United States’ and the infrastructure there has had more time to grow. The result is an abundance of solar panel recycling options for businesses and homeowners alike. Here’s to hoping that the US is close behind!

The Xcel Energy Community Solar Garden Program: What has it Accomplished in Minnesota

 

Written By Ralph Jacobson

IPS has been busy developing solar arrays through the Xcel Community Solar Garden (CSG) program since 2014. This year the CSG program is under fire from one house of the Legislature and getting a boost from the other house. Whether you are a skeptic, a subscriber, or just wonder what all the fuss is about, now is a good time to step back for a minute and consider some of the many ways that the program has benefited not only Xcel Energy customers, but the entire population of Minnesota. I have thought of eight; how many can you think of?

 

1. Minnesota now has a more sophisticated developer and utility partnership. 

The solar market here had been capped at a tiny size of 40 kilowatts since net-metering was enacted in 1980; this supported only a small group of solar installers competing for residential and small commercial business. The CSG program has helped to move the solar market out of the “early adopter phase” of sky-high cost, into the “early mainstream phase” where costs are still too high for utilities but are coming down fast. Our state’s utilities now have local partners who have the depth of experience and resources to continue wrestling with costs and risk factors until these are acceptable for utilities to more directly engage with solar.

 

2. The Minnesota PUC has successfully deployed a joint planning model embodied in the CSG working group, which transfers much of the workload to Xcel and the developers, while maintaining robust oversight.

The sheer volume of proceedings involving solar has created a tremendous increase in the workload of the state regulators. This working group has placed much of the responsibility on the solar power industry itself, utility and non-utility, to work together to find agreeable solutions. Although the issues are being hotly debated now, the groundwork has been laid here for a smoother Integrated Distribution Planning process, involving more players.

 

3. We Needed to Try the Value of Solar (VOS) Tariff.

The CSG program has provided a testbed for the Value of Solar (VOS) concept. After much collective effort and brain power went into developing the method for calculating each line item in the tariff template, no utility stepped forward to try it out. Solar developers thought it would benefit them by raising the price which utilities pay for solar; utilities thought they would see the price fall over time. The VOS started out as a rational approach to calculate the avoided costs for utilities, but because it is now in actual use for the CSG market, we will now find out whether the VOS really does reduce the level of contention on the price which the utility pays for solar power.     

 

4. Minnesota is no longer flyover country for capital, when it comes to solar. Many providers came from different corners of the capital market to check out the CSG model, and some stayed to play.

This was the first opportunity for many in the local solar industry to participate in third-party financing deals. Broader use of third-party financing has stimulated more possibilities for solar deployment, due to more interest from capital providers and more experienced developers and installers. One way to look at it: Minnesota is getting its share of the benefit from Federal Investment Tax Credits. 

 

5. Solar Deployment Has Greatly Accelerated With CSGs.

In the five years from when the CSG law was signed in 2013, through the end of 2018, PV capacity installed in Minnesota went from 17 megawatts to over 1000 megawatts. That’s an increase of 60X!! Over half of that increase is from solar arrays under the Xcel CSG program,  enough to power 50,000 homes.

 

6. Farm income is stabilized with CSGs: farmers who lease part of their land out to a CSG are finding, like their counterparts who lease out land for wind farms, that this builds some stability into their economics.

Typically, these 25-year contracts provide the farmer around $1,000 per acre per year; a CSG requires about 5 acres for deployment of a megawatt of solar modules. Think of it this way: the farmer is getting paid for taking some of their land out of heavy corn and soybean rotation, and to put that land into a soil improvement program which produces electric power at the same time.

 

7. CSGs are associated with soil improvement, and agronomists are beginning to study the positive impact of ground-mounted solar on soils.

Solar developers have largely adopted the planting of soil-building grasses and legumes as the standard soil treatment under a solar array. Fresh Energy’s Pollinator Pledge program has helped build public awareness and acceptance of ground-mounted solar as an enhancement of Minnesota agriculture, and not a distraction.

 

8. CSGs have helped Increase public acceptance of solar, because now there are a LOT more solar arrays deployed around rural Minnesota.  Five years ago, most people (including myself), considered larger ground-mounted solar arrays to be an unnatural imposition upon the agricultural landscape we were accustomed to. Many people live near, work near, or drive by a CSG regularly, and all of us can see for ourselves that a one-megawatt solar array has less visual impact than an ethanol plant, or other large agricultural installations.

Celebrate the Solstice With IPS Solar!

 

IPS Solar is throwing a Solstice Solarbration & Community Fundraiser at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge! Join us as we celebrate the longest day of the year and support several amazing nonprofits!

The evening will include a tasty family style buffet, Psycho Suzi’s famous tropical drinks, festive music, games, fabulous raffle prizes and an unparalleled view of the Mississippi River from Suzi’s private waterfront balcony.

Get Tickets!

Ticket Options

-Early Bird Admission (Until June 1st): $65
-General Admission (After June 1st): $80

Your Ticket Includes: 

– 1 raffle ticket (additional tickets can be purchased at the event)
– 2 drink tickets
– Family style buffet dinner
– a night full of fun and adventure!

Supporting Sponsorship: $500 

– six event tickets
– your company name/logo listed on event promotional materials
– your company name/logo included on event signage and at table
– a shout out from the event hosts during opening remarks

Presenting Sponsorship: $1,000

– nine event tickets
– your company listed as event co-host on all promotional materials and event signage
– ability to set up a small promotional table at the event
– ability to make brief remarks during the event

 

Proceeds from the event will be supporting the work of several amazing nonprofits.
MN350: MN350 unites Minnesotans as part of a global movement to end the pollution damaging our climate, speed the transition to clean energy, and create a just and healthy future for all.

With the imagination and dedication of thousands of volunteers and working in coalition with organizations statewide, MN350 is making Minnesota a leader in the transition to a just and livable clean energy economy. MN350 uses a full range of peaceful methods, including policy advocacy, bold public events, political engagement and nonviolent direct action to change the rules of government and corporate behavior.                                                   

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy: Climate Generation was founded by polar explorer, Will Steger, based on his powerful eyewitness to climate change from over 50 years exploring the Polar Regions. We recognize the power of eyewitness accounts and personal story, acknowledging that as our world warms, we all have a climate story to tell. Our programs work to realize our vision: a world of resilient communities with equitable solutions to climate change and our mission to empower individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.

We provide educators, youth, policymakers, communities, and business leaders with the resources and opportunities to engage in solutions to climate change. Across these audiences, our programs work to build climate literacy, develop powerful climate advocates, and elevate leadership. Each year we reach 5,000 educators, 3,500 youth, and thousands of people through our public engagement.

Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light: MNIPL is an interfaith community co-creating a just and sustainable world. They work in partnership with faith communities to build transformative power and bring the lights of people’s unique gifts to addressing the climate crisis.

They do this in two ways: leadership development programs and action opportunities that provide tangible ways to make an impact. MNIPL believes that it’s not enough to offer people opportunities to take action on the issues they care about. Instead, they believe leadership development and organizing training empower individuals to build a movement capable of creating a just and livable climate for the human and more than human world.

Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Investment Tax Credit

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the most popular and successful federal policy mechanisms ever enacted to support renewable energy in the US. In the 14 years since its enactment, there has been 59% compound annual solar growth nationwide. With the step-down of the tax credit beginning at the end of 2019, potential solar customers have limited time left to take full advantage of its benefits. 

 

What is the ITC?

The ITC is a tax credit can be claimed on federal corporate income taxes for 30 percent of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that is placed in service during that year. The tax credit is claimed against the tax liability of residential and commercial investors in solar energy property. This credit is used when homeowners purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes or when businesses install, develop and/or finance solar projects.

 

History and Future of the ITC

The ITC was originally established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was set to expire at the end of 2007. Due to the success of the program Congress has extended its expiration date multiple times, most recently in 2015. That extension set up the tax credit to step down to 26 percent for projects that begin construction in 2020 and 22 percent for projects that begin in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent.  


 


Impact of the ITC Step-Down

According to Energy Information Administration data in 2015 (when the ITC was scheduled to expire at the end of the next year), if the 30% credit was not extended, rooftop solar photovoltaic installations would plunge 94% in 2017 and utility-scale projects would decline 100%, with neither recovering anywhere close to today’s levels even a decade from now.  Bloomberg predicted solar installations would drop by two-thirds in 2017, which the Solar Energy Industries Association estimated would cost America 100,000 jobs.

The economic projections aren’t as grim this time around. A study from Bloomberg estimates that the loss of the tax credit will cause solar capacity to only quadruple, instead of quintuple, by 2022, which is still a substantial increase. A Wall Street Journal analysis reinforces this assessment. 

So, what has changed over the last few years to mitigate the effect of ITC’s decline? For starters, this stepdown is less severe than the proposed 2015 iteration, which called for a straight drop from 30 to 10 percent. The more gradual step-down, combined with recent legislation that allows homeowners to claim their tax credit as soon as the construction of the system begins (as opposed to when the system is operational), will allow significantly more installs to qualify for a higher credit. Additionally, solar installation prices have continued their sharp decline. The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% since 2010, and prices as of Q4 2018 are at or near their lowest historical level across all market segments.

The solar industry will still prosper without the ITC. However, the planned growth will not be as dynamic. Customers should be aware of the impending changes and plan accordingly, but can still be optimistic about sustained industry growth.

 

 

Sources

SEIA

Bloomberg

Wall Street Journal

Energy.Gov

 

 

2019 Brings Changes to Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Program

Xcel Energy’s popular Solar*Rewards incentive program has undergone a few key changes for 2019. These changes are highlighted by adjusted incentive rates, additional consumer protection provisions, and a new low-income branch of the program.  These changes come only six months after the Minnesota Legislature passed HF 3232, which raised the capacity size limit for Solar*Rewards projects from 20kW to 40kW. You can read about that change here.


Incentive Rate Changes


In 2018 both commercial and residential program participants received $.08 for every kilowatt hour of electricity they produced.  This year, the incentive rates have dropped to $.06 per kWh for commercial participants and $.07 per kWh for residential participants.  While these reduced rates will lower the financial benefit program participants receive, they will allow the total incentive budget to be split among more projects.

 


Consumer Protection Provisions


The Solar*Rewards program now requires every installer submitting a residential application to be a licensed Minnesota Residential Building Contractor.  This aims to help protect customers by ensuring that only qualified installers are using the program.  


The new MN Contractor Recovery Fund was also created with customers in mind. The fund compensates owners or lessees of residential property in Minnesota who have suffered actual and direct out-of-pocket loss due to a licensed contractor’s fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, or failure of performance.


Income Qualified Incentives


This year Xcel Energy has added Income Qualified Incentives into the Solar*Rewards program.  These incentives are only available to customers that meet certain income guidelines and have separate rates for residential, non-profit & multi-family, and solar garden customers.

 


Unlike the traditional Solar*Rewards incentives, the Income Qualified Incentives are structured as an upfront per-watt rebate combined with a production incentive. Xcel has set aside between 10 and 20 percent of the total incentive pool specifically for these projects. With the current budget at just over $9,000,000, at least $900,000 will be set aside for Income Qualified Incentives.  

Announcing Our Next Commercial Solar Power Hour

Join us for some tasty appetizers and great beer in Surly’s Scheid Hall Room on March 13th. Happy hour begins at 4:00 pm followed by a formal discussion at 5:15 pm. Network with fellow professionals and learn how investing in solar can decrease your business’ tax liability.  We will focus on how the upcoming expiration of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has created a sense of urgency for businesses looking to switch to solar. Tickets are $20.

Your ticket gets you:
– Entry into the event
– Free access to Surly’s collection of tap beers
– Free appetizers served throughout the evening

 

Featured Speakers

Norman Jones –  Shareholder / Attorney – Winthrop & Weinstine 

Norm has been structuring and closing tax credit transactions at Winthrop and Weinstine for over 20 years. In that time, he has closed over 700 megawatts of renewable energy tax credits. His accolades include being named Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year in 2006, and one of Real Estate Law’s Best Lawyers in America for 2018-2019.

Eric Pasi – Chief Development Officer – IPS Solar

Since 2007 Eric’s helped to accelerate significant solar power adoption in Minnesota and the upper Midwest for IPS Solar. Pasi has developed notable projects including the Green Line Solar Corridor, more than 70 megawatts of community solar, and the company’s successful Solar & Schools program.

 

Surly Tap List
– Axe Man – IPA
– Space Race – Hazy IPA
– Liquid Stardust – Brut IPA
– Circular Reasoning – Roggenbier
– Resilience – IPA
– Furious – IPA
– DAF – Brut IPA
– Pentagram – Brett Dark Sour Ale
– Staycation – Pineapple Lactose IPA
– Weizenbock – Weizenbock

 

Event Menu
– Cheese board | selection of artisanal cheeses, honeycomb, marmalade, candied nuts, crostini & crackers
– Antipasto | sopressata, coppa, mortadella, artichokes, olives, giardiniera, crostini & crackers
– Chilled dips | pimento cheese, pico de gallo, black bean salsa, hummus
– Tater tot hot dish | smoked pork & brisket, mushrooms, corn, chilies
– Heirloom green salad | marcona almonds, radish, pickled tomato manchego, sherry vinaigrette
– Mini lobster rolls | butter toasted bun
– Cuban sliders | smoked pork, house-cured ham, mojo sauce, pickles, gruyere
– Smoked salmon crostini | house-smoked salmon, creamy shallot spread
– Deviled eggs trio | cornichon | piquillo relish & bacon | radish & pickled ..mustard seed (GF)
– Lamb gyro skewers | lamb meatball, tomato, cucumber, tzatziki sauce (GF)
– Sambal chicken skewers (GF)
– Chocolate chip cookies

 

We hope to see you there!

Illinois Communities Preparing for Solar

By Amit Shukla

Illinois’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) will be the premier legislation to drive renewable energy and economic development in the state of Illinois. Many communities, townships, school districts, colleges, and building owners are gearing up for this legislation.

Along with energy efficiency improvements, this legislation calls for 1.3 GW of wind and 3 GW of solar by 2030. About 1500 MW of solar needs to be built by 2021 and of this approximately 670 MW is distributed generation. The Illinois Power Agency has issued the Renewable Energy Procurement Plan.

The intent of this blog post is to summarize the new “Adjustable Block Program” program.

In a market where energy prices are cheap, the primary mechanism to incentivize these projects is via Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). One REC is equivalent to 1 MWh and it’s the “clean energy” attribute of generating renewable energy. These certificates will be set according to the “Adjustable Block Program” for community solar and behind the meter projects.

Depending on the size of the project and the utility company whose territory the project lies in, the Illinois Power Agency will grant REC values to incentivize these projects. There are separate blocks for community solar and those for distributed generation (DG), which consists of commercial, industrial, and residential.

On the community solar side, based on IPAs draft procurement plan, these REC values may range from just above $100/REC to just under $50/REC. Similarly on the DG side, these REC values may range from close to $80/REC to $30/REC, depending on size and the block.

IPA has issued the first three blocks and the REC values in these blocks will reduce over time. Hence it is important to get in early. These REC values will be paid at an accelerated level of 100% up front for residential solar and within five years for commercial and community solar projects. All incentives along with the federal investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation are expected to defray the upfront cost of doing solar.

Click here to read more!