Author Archives: Kyle Wehnes

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.

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!

Minneapolis Debuts World’s First Solar Farm Cider

Among the rolling hills adjacent to a nature preserve in St. Joseph Minnesota is Milk & Honey Ciders. Their latest crisp and balanced cider is “Solar Sweet Farm Cider”, a collaboration with the beekeepers at Bare Honey which tend a busy family of happy honey bees on the solar farm adjacent to the cidery.

IPS Solar and nonprofit Fresh Energy helped make the connection between the beekeepers and the cidery. IPS develops all of its solar farms to have abundant pollinator habitat. Project Manager for IPS and former ASES Board Member Laura Cina says “I think all of the old school solar installers are really just big hippies at heart, so if it costs a little extra to plant vegetation that will boost biodiversity, prevent erosion, help save the pollinators, than that’s what we’re going to do.” Fresh Energy is the nation’s leading nonprofit group highlighting the opportunity for solar farms to provide beneficial habitat for pollinators including bees and butterflies. Minnesota Native Landscapes manages the flowers and vegetation at the solar farm.

Acclaimed restaurateur and two-time James Beard award semifinalist, Kim Bartmann is excited to highlight this delicious collaboration at her restaurants in Minneapolis just in time to celebrate all the work that pollinators did earlier this year in apple orchards throughout Minnesota.

About Solar Sweet Farm Cider
“Solar Sweet Farm Cider” — Golden Russet & Kingston Black apples with honey harvested from the solar farm adjacent to the cidery. Tropical fruit notes from the Golden Russet and herbal spice from the Kingston Black, earthy & sweetness from the honey. 8% abv.

About the Community Solar Garden
The Walz Family farmed this land for decades but when the patriarch farmers of the family passed away the younger generation looked for ways to keep the land in the family. They quickly discovered that leasing the land to a solar garden was more profitable than leasing to another farmer. Additionally, the environmental benefits for the land and surrounding community was a very attractive proposition.
Environmental benefits include:
– Resting the land from farming for 25 years helps build nutrients in the soil
– Clean energy being produced
– The deep root systems of wildflowers and grasses prevent erosion
– Native plantings create food for pollinators

Guarantee Savings With Community Solar

New Value of Solar tariff ensures financial benefits for participants


CFO’s and Energy Managers – it’s time to celebrate!  You can now confidently recommend Community Solar today understanding exactly how much your organization will save each year, with the comfort of knowing that number will always be positive from year 1 to year 25.

Facilities Managers can also celebrate, there’s no need for panels on your roof.  Community Solar allows ratepayers to participate in nearby solar projects, with benefits automatically credited to their monthly utility statements. IPS Solar identifies land, develops projects, and contracts with energy users (subscribers) to offer a simple, straightforward approach to energy savings.


From Risk To Stability 

Previously, solar developers presented assumptions regarding long-term utility costs.  Many prospective subscribers were concerned with what was perceived to be unknown price risk and may have decided that the program didn’t offer the assurances needed to make an informed decision.  Under Xcel’s new program iteration called Value of Solar, Community Solar subscribers can accurately forecast both the costs and benefits of their commitments upfront. 

Over the last three years Community Solar in Minnesota has become a more stable and mature market, allowing the utility, ratepayers and solar developers to benefit from more predictable energy values.   Xcel’s new Value of Solar tariff sets a known price for solar compensation, contracted for 25 years. 


Real Savings

Organizations can expect to save thousands up to millions of dollars during the term of an agreement.  The chart below illustrates indicative benefits for subscribers with varying energy consumption:

Lease Your Roof or Property!

IPS continues to specialize in helping organizations monetize under-utilized real estate like roofs, parking lots, or unproductive land.  Lease your roof so others in the community can benefit from solar energy. We offer very competitive rates and a quick turn around on assessing feasibility at your sites.  Many commercial real estate sectors are getting in on the action; from industrial warehouses to brownfields to multi-family units. Let us help assess your solar revenue potential.



About IPS Solar:

IPS Solar, a leading provider of solar power solutions in Minnesota and the Midwest, is focused on the development, installation and management of solar power systems for commercial, community solar and residential customers. IPS Solar is one of the fastest growing solar systems providers in the United States, delivering rooftop commercial projects to multi-megawatt community solar gardens.

Our company’s mission is to lead the transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable power while saving money for our customers. For over 25 years, IPS Solar has been serving clients with integrity and excellence.

New Changes to Xcel Energy Solar Programs

In the last few weeks there have been some important changes made to Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards, PV Demand Credit, and Standby Service Rider programs. These changes will affect current Xcel customers as well as present new opportunities for those who haven’t yet made the switch to solar.


During this session the Minnesota legislature passed HF 3232, which increases the Solar*Rewards capacity size limit for projects from 20kW to 40kW. This means that bigger solar projects can now qualify for the popular incentive program. Under the previous limit many customers were forced to leave usable roof space empty, an issue that this increase should help mitigate.  

Solar*Rewards is a performance-based incentive program offered to customers to help offset the cost of installing solar. The incentive of $.08 per kWh is paid annually for 10 years. The program capacity increased dramatically for 2018, from 4.6 MW last year to 13.7 MW. For more info on Solar*Rewards head to Xcel Energy’s website

PV Demand Credit

Xcel Energy recently worked with the solar industry, regulators, customer advocates and other stakeholders to create a new, more easily understood PV Demand Credit. The new credit, on average, is meant to be financially similar to the prior credit structure but uses a more easily understood per kWh credit during times when Xcel customers demand the most energy. These new credits will replace the current PV Capacity Credit. 

The new PV Demand Credit Rider will become effective June 1 for any customer with solar systems over 40kW with a single production meter. The new rider will have the same monthly customer charge; however the bill credit will now be 7.139 cents per kWh for solar energy generated between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

Standby Service Rider

Xcel also created a new, simpler, Standby Service Rider that will take effect on July 19th. The revised Standby Service Rider is available to customers with on-site generation greater than 100kW who have chosen to have Xcel Energy cover their load when their generation is partially or wholly unavailable. The revised rate is based on the amount of resources Xcel needs to have available to support a customer if their generation becomes unavailable.

The revised rate, on average, is meant to be financially similar to previous Standby Service charges but more easily understood. The revised Rider retains reservation demand charges (think of these as the reservation fees to have resources available should you need them), but replaces the current monthly demand charge for standby capacity used with a peak-period kWh based surcharge. The benefit of the former grace period was included in calculations for the new rates and therefore is no longer a stand-alone feature. Xcel also added options for more frequent monthly nominations of the capacity amount.





IPS’ Eric Pasi Honored as Midwest Energy’s 40 Under 40

Midwest Energy News has announced their 2018 40 Under 40, which includes IPS Solar’s Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer.  We’re grateful for his leadership over the past 11 years!

Eric Pasi joined IPS Solar in 2007, a company with 15 years of renewable energy experience at that time. Since then he’s helped to accelerate significant solar power adoption in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Pasi has developed unique financing programs, won competitive opportunities, and jumpstarted the company’s successful Community Solar Gardens program. To date, Pasi has contributed to nearly 100MW of distributed Midwest solar projects. Pasi graduated from the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota in 2006 where he focused on entrepreneurial management and marketing. Currently, he is an advisor to the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).