Author Archives: Parker Lindo

Should You Consider Solar for Your Manufacturing Facilities?

When it comes to investment opportunities for manufacturing facilities, there is no shortage of options. There are many potential solutions with attractive ROIs, but have you considered that your facilities’ electricity source could be one of them? Solar is a practical solution for manufacturing facilities that can often be overlooked. In this article we’ll spell out the case for solar in manufacturing that could be hiding in plain sight. 

An aerial view of the rooftop solar array installed at Protolabs, located in Plymouth, MN.

Roof Conditions and Location 

Manufacturing facilities often have large, flat roofs that possess ideal conditions for an effective solar array. Ample space is available for the number of panels required to achieve the building’s desired electricity offset, while the panels can be oriented due south to soak in the most sunlight and achieve maximum production. 

The typical location and height of manufacturing facility roofs also ensure that shading from nearby buildings or trees won’t interfere with the array’s production, and additional installation costs associated with multi-story buildings are avoided.    

Electricity Use, Peak Shaving, and Reliability

Manufacturing facilities consume a lot of electricity. According to figures from the EIA, they use 95.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per square foot each year. In a 10,000 square-foot facility, that would equal the annual electricity use of 80 homes! 

Manufacturing facilities consume most of their electricity during the day, making solar ideal for savings through a process called peak shaving. Electricity is more expensive during the day’s peak demand hours, which often make up 30-70% of an electricity bill. Electricity generated by solar panels is used to ‘Shave’ off the peak electricity loads, and significantly reduce the cost of demand charges.   

Grid-tied systems ensure reliable access to electricity. During the day, grid-tied facilities use electricity generated by solar panels, and at night or in cloudy weather, the facility uses electricity from the grid. With grid-tied systems, there is no risk of there is no risk of interrupting your facility’s operations. 

Reducing and Stabilizing Electricity Costs For Your Manufacturing Facilities

Solar is guaranteed to reduce electricity costs. Utility bills represent 30% of operating costs for the average organization¹, wile solar has been the world’s most affordable electricity source since 2016², with the price dropping by more than 70% in the past decade³. 

Solar offers price stability. US electricity prices have increased at a rate of 1.8% per year for the past 25 years according to the EIA. As electricity costs continue to rise, savings increase and your facility will pay a steady reduced rate for electricity. 

Sources: Rocky Mountain Institute¹, International Energy Agency², Solar Energy Industries Association³. 

Sustainability Goals

Solar is an effective way to achieve sustainability goals. Solar doesn’t produce air pollution or greenhouse gasses, and a rooftop solar installation can earn more LEED® points than nearly all other green building initiatives.

Considering Solar for Your Manufacturing Facilities? We’re Here To Help.

IPS has been helping organizations implement solar for over 30 years. We’d be happy to answer questions, illustrate what solar would look like, and demonstrate the financial payback for your facilities. Request a quote today to get started!

The Impact of the DOC Solar Investigation and Possible Tariffs

April 2022 | Eric Hanson, Chief Operating Officer, Impact Power Solutions

The DOC Solar Investigation is looking at possible circumvention of anti-dumping laws (AD/CVD) by imported solar modules and it’s sparking uncertainty for US companies and the solar industry. IPS’ Chief Operating Officer, Eric Hanson, shares his insight on how the investigation is impacting the sourcing of these modules and the development of commercial solar projects. We ask him how our projects are going, what we’re doing to avoid future issues, and how companies looking to adopt solar should react to this news.

What’s Being Reviewed in the DOC Solar Investigation

The US commerce department is analyzing a case brought by domestic manufacturer Auxin, which states that they and other domestic manufacturers have been harmed by companies importing panels below their true cost. A similar tariff has been on the books since 2012 which covers, of all things, washing machines and solar panels imported from China. The US government determined that panels and cells made were being sold at a below-market rate. Since that time there’s been an 18-28% tariff against certain Chinese panel manufacturers. The new case alleges that manufacturers in other countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand – are doing the same thing.

The Difference Between the DOC Solar Investigation and the Previous 201 Trade Tariffs

The previous section 201 trade tariff had a bi-facial exception, which basically meant that any bifacial panel was not subject to it. It was a pretty big tariff, about 30%, now it’s ramped down to roughly 15%. The DOC Solar Investigation is similar to the 2012 anti-dumping tariff. If this petition is accepted by the department of commerce, it would be retroactive, and very large, 50% – 250% on top of the price of these modules and retroactive to some point, possibly to the beginning of this year, or to March of this year. No panel manufacturer feels confident that if they deliver right now, it wouldn’t be subjected to this tariff. It’s created a freeze on panels across the industry, and not the kind of freeze we’re accustomed to here in Minnesota.

Project and Product Delays

Projects are going great in 2022! It’s probably going to be one of the biggest years ever for IPS. The most significant delays we’re seeing are with inverters, lead times that are about double what we have been accustomed to. Instead of a typical 8-week delivery window, it’s now 20-25 weeks. We’re also noticing certain inverter manufacturers that don’t have any stock for the rest of the year. For the most part, though we’ve been able to pivot and find reliable manufacturers that we can use. At this point, we have not seen too many cancellations. You are able to install racking and inverters and wiring and conduit before you have modules, but we typically don’t do things that way. We would never start a construction project without procuring the modules or knowing that we have a path to procure them at an agreed-upon price. Typically the delays are due to supply chain issues. With inverters, for instance, there are a lot of PCBs with microchips, and every industry is fighting for microchips at the moment. But the largest single issue for us right now is transportation– it’s either too expensive, which causes suppliers to decline shipping if their freight numbers (usually included in our price) or a lack of delivery drivers. In many instances, we can’t get products across the ocean to the US.

What We’re Doing to Avoid Issues

North American panels are accessible to commercial installations, on a very limited basis. Typically the annual output is going to be a lot lower, so it’s pretty difficult to count on them to cover all of our needs throughout the year, knowing that there are quite a few companies like ours around the country. We have not looked into the secondary market, but we have looked at a lot of suppliers through Amicus, our solar buyers’ cooperative. We have seen some supply due to canceled orders from larger companies. We’ve really tried to open up the old Rolodex and talk with as many reputable distributors as possible. I think we’ve done a pretty good job at locating inverters and racking – modules are the only item hanging out there. As of today we haven’t had an issue locating modules, but I think that will likely change in the next couple of months.

How the DOC Solar Investigation will Impact the Commercial and Community Solar Market

If module supply is reduced by potentially 80% prices will go up. If that’s the case on the community solar front we’ll see delays as developers choose to wait out the current issues. For commercial customers, some will choose to move forward but many will wait out these problems as well. Both markets are less price-sensitive compared to utility-scale, with residential projects being even less price-sensitive than commercial and community-scale.

Implications for Companies Considering Solar

The biggest implication for any customer looking to install solar this year or next year is to act fast, to be very blunt. There are modules out there, we have a relatively solid supply of modules now, but that could change dramatically in the next several months if market dynamics do not change. If solar is a strategic initiative for your company this year or next year, due to the recent decision by the DOC, I would definitely say that you should act as soon as possible. If you have a proposal in front of you that makes financial sense, now is the time to do it and I think it’s going to get a little bit more uncertain as we move forward toward the end of 2022.

Is Solar a Strategic Initiative for Your Company? We Can Help.

If your company is considering sustainability initiatives, renewable energy, or energy efficiency improvements, we’re happy to hear from you. Impact Power Solutions has been helping organizations implement solar projects for over 30 years. If you’re interested in learning more or want to see how solar can work for your organization, reach out to us today!

Understanding your Commercial Electricity Bill

Understanding your Commercial Electricity Bill

Despite the fact that energy consumption is often one of a business’s biggest overhead costs, electricity bills are generally paid without a second glance. Understanding your commercial electricity bill will allow you to pick out the relevant information that impacts your energy strategy. This can be particularly helpful for companies that are considering sustainability initiatives, renewable energy, or energy efficiency improvements.

Let’s look at this sample Xcel bill from a commercial client and dig deeper to see what lies beneath that total monthly charge. 

Found on Xcel Bill Page 2

Electricity Charges

What You Need To Know:

The electricity charges section breaks down each component of your total monthly bill. Some charges include usage units and a per kwh rate, which show how they are impacted by your monthly energy usage. 

It’s also worth taking a closer look at the charges that aren’t explained on the bill. The Resource Adjustment includes costs related to several different conservation and renewable energy programs. Each program has a per kilowatt hour rate that is multiplied by your billed usage to formulate the total charge. The Affordability Charge is a flat monthly surcharge that offsets costs of offering bill payment assistance and discount programs to low-income customers. The charge varies based on customer type, and this commercial client pays $3.60 per month.

So what is the difference between a Charge and a True Up? Each year Xcel predicts the costs of energy and sets rates based on those predictions. When actual energy production costs rise or fall, Xcel adjusts prices accordingly and adds the difference to your bill as a ‘true up’. If energy prices fluctuate multiple times during the month, there will be multiple true ups. The total kWh of those true ups will equal your total billed usage.

Resource Adjustment Note:

Energy subsidies have long been a controversial topic. Virtually all sources of energy are subsidized, and unlike some subsidies, this one is directly mentioned on the bill. Powering your facility with solar can directly reduce the amount you pay into this fund.

Electricity Charges Glossary: 

  • Rate: Xcel charges customers different rates for their energy, depending on their maximum demand. This customer’s demand is 708 kW, which falls under the General Service Rate.
  • Basic Service Charge: This charge stays the same regardless of your usage. It covers the cost of providing you with energy service, such as electric and gas line maintenance. 
  • Energy Charge: This is the amount you pay per kwh for electricity usage. It includes the cost to generate the electricity you use, and costs to own, operate and maintain the power plants that produce it.
  • Fuel Cost Charge: This is the cost of the fuel used to generate electricity. It is a straight pass-through to you. Electric utilities calculate the total cost for fuel sources to generate electricity each month and pass those costs on to you as charges.
  • Sales True Up:  Each year Xcel predicts the costs of energy and sets rates based on those predictions. When actual energy production costs rise or fall, xcel adjusts prices accordingly. These adjustments show up on your bill as ‘true ups’. If energy prices fluctuate multiple times during the month, there will be multiple true ups. The total kWh of those true ups will equal your total billed usage.
  • Demand Charge (winter): Xcel applies demand charges based on the maximum amount of power that a customer uses in any 15 minute interval during the billing cycle. Demand charges usually apply to commercial and industrial customers, who tend to have higher peak loads. The rate for these charges changes seasonally. 
  • Affordability Charge: This is a surcharge to recover the costs of offering bill payment assistance and discount programs to low-income customers. 
  • Resource Adjustment: This includes costs related to several conservation and renewable energy programs. You can see the full list here. 
  • City Fees: In some cities Xcel Energy is required to collect a fee on behalf of the city.

Meter Reading Information

What You Need To Know:

The meter reading information section breaks down your energy usage during the last billing cycle. In this section we are looking for two things: your total billed energy usage and your instantaneous demand.

Your total billed usage can be found in the Total Energy row. Since your meter counts up cumulative energy used, the Current Reading isn’t actually the amount of energy used this month, its the total amount you’ve used since the meter was installed. You can take the Current Reading and Subtract the Previous Reading to find the amount of energy used this month. Use the multiplier in the top left-hand corner of the table (in this case 300) to get your Billed Usage in the far right column.  

The Demand row of the Billed Usage column shows the maximum amount of power you used within a single 15-minute interval. 

These two numbers show up as the Energy Charge and Demand Charge in the ‘Electricity Charges’ section of your bill. 

Meter Reading Information Glossary:

  • Current & Previous Reading: These columns show the cumulative energy reading from your meter during the current and previous billing cycles. THIS DOES NOT SHOW HOW MUCH ENERGY YOU USED THIS PERIOD. You can subtract the previous reading from the current reading to get your measured usage. 
  • Measured Usage: This is how much actual electricity in kilowatts that you used during this billing period, measured by your electric meter.
  • Billed Usage: Your measured usage is put into an equation that determines the total units of energy consumed. That number is your billed usage, and is what Xcel bases your monthly charges on.  
  • Total Energy: Energy can be broken down into multiple components. This includes all of them. 
  • Reactive Energy: Reactive energy is one of those components that contributes to total energy. 
  • Demand: Demand is a measure of how much instantaneous power a customer uses at a given time. Xcel calculates demand based on the maximum amount of power that a customer uses in any 15 minute interval during the billing cycle. 
  • Billable Demand: If this number is higher than Demand in the row above, you’re getting penalized for your power factor. 
  • Power Factor Demand: Power factor attempts to show how efficiently you are using the energy supplied to you. If your power factor is 100%, you’re using 100% of the supplied energy. A lower power factor means that you aren’t using all of the power supplied to you.

Found on Xcel Bill Page 1

Account Balance

What You Need To Know:

Your total account balance is the first thing you see on your bill, and the last piece of the puzzle. Its helpful to look at your usage information and the specific charges on your bill to get the full picture of your energy expenses.

If you are looking to spend less on energy bills, our experts are happy to help you evaluate your businesses’ solar potential. 

Account Balance Glossary:

  • Balance Forward: If this is zero, you’re up to date on your payments. 
  • Amount Due: This is the total amount you owe for energy this month. You can compare this amount to your Previous Balance to see if you’re paying more or less than last month.

Want help understanding your commercial electricity bill? We can help.

If your company is considering sustainability initiatives, renewable energy, or energy efficiency improvements, we’re happy to hear from you. Impact Power Solutions has been helping organizations implement solar projects for over 30 years. If you’re interested in learning more about your commercial electricity bill or want to see how solar can work for your organization, reach out to us today! 

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IPS Solar Acquired by New Energy Equity


Roseville, Minnesota – Impact Power Solutions (IPS Solar) announced on Thursday it was being acquired by New Energy Equity LLC. On March 2, ALLETE, Inc. (NYSE: ALE) announced it is acquiring New Energy Equity, which includes IPS Solar for $165.5 million.  IPS Solar will retain its branding and corporate headquarters in Roseville, Minnesota.

Redwing’s 6.12 MW Community Solar Garden, commissioned by IPS in 2016. 

“The IPS team is excited to join New Energy Equity and the ALLETE family of companies,” said the company’s CEO, Jamie Borell. “The shared vision of positively impacting the world with solar energy will ensure that our combined venture will enjoy tremendous success.”

IPS Solar is one of the country’s longest standing solar companies, having been founded by Ralph Jacobson in 1991. Jacobson remarked “I am thrilled to have the team that we have grown for thirty years now join the family of Allete companies. Together we will have the expanded resources and experience base to be at the forefront of building the world we all want for our children.”

Chief Development Officer and co-owner of IPS Solar Eric Pasi added “We are set to enter a new phase of growth. This partnership will allow our companies to dramatically expand the work we’ve already started, increasing access to clean energy for all Americans.”

New Energy Equity and ALLETE expect the purchase to close in mid-April upon satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including compliance with Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust clearing requirements.

About ALLETE, Inc.

ALLETE, Inc. is an energy company headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota. In addition to its electric utilities, Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power of Wisconsin, ALLETE owns ALLETE Clean Energy, based in Duluth; and BNI Energy in Bismarck, N.D.; and has an eight percent equity interest in the American Transmission Co. More information about ALLETE is available at

About New Energy Equity 

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, New Energy Equity develops and finances solar power generation assets, providing clean electricity to commercial, industrial, municipal and utility customers under long-term contracts. New Energy Equity has successfully developed over 300MW of solar projects and closed more than $600MM in clean energy investments. The company was ranked as the 7th Top Solar Developer and the 8th Top Solar Contractor on Solar Power World’s “2021 Top Solar Contractors” list and was voted as one of the fastest-growing energy companies in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia by Inc. Magazine. To learn more, visit

About Impact Power Solutions 

Impact Power Solutions, LLC is a full-service clean energy development company. For more than 30 years, they have worked to deliver customers solutions ranging from rooftop installations to multi-megawatt community solar gardens. IPS has been recognized as a Solar Power World Top Solar Contractor every year since the list’s inception in 2013. To date the company has helped to energize nearly 200 MW of solar across the country. The company’s purpose is, and always will be, to positively impact people, power and the planet with solar energy. To learn more, visit

For media inquiries please contact Kyle Wehnes at

2021 Solar Policy Recap

2021 was a major year for the US solar industry and solar policy as the country re-opened. Despite a recovering economy, solar accounted for 54% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the first three quarters of 2021 according to the SEIA. 

2021 National Solar Policy Updates

Solar took several steps forward this year with substantial policy updates on a national level. The US re-entered the Paris Climate Agreement1, pledged to cut emissions in half by 20302, the senate passed the infrastructure bill3, the Solar Investment Tax Credit was extended4, and section 201 tariffs on imported solar modules were repealed5. Meanwhile, the DOE released a blueprint for massive solar expansion6, set an enormous goal for community solar for the next four years7, and prepared the grid for a large influx in solar8. The White House announced plans for the Environmental Justice Advisory Council9, while SEIA added an environmental justice platform10, and the NAACP published equitable solar policy principles for advocates and lawmakers11. As the US moves toward a clean energy economy, it’s clear that it must be an environmentally just and equitable transition. 

Solar Panels in front of the American Flag

2021 Midwest Solar Policy Updates

In the Midwest, Wisconsin12 and Ohio13 Republicans worked on community solar enabling legislation. Minnesota passed the Omnibus Energy Bill, providing millions of dollars to support solar on schools14, and will soon host one of the largest solar manufacturing plants in North America15. Illinois primed itself for a solar revolution, passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act16. With strong bipartisan support, solar appears to be a critical element in the Midwest’s recovering economy. 

IPS Company News

As a company, we celebrated our 30th year in the solar business17 and were recognized as a Top Solar Contractor for our 10th consecutive year18. Once again, we’d like to thank our clients, team, and collaborators for making this possible. We look forward to empowering energy customers to choose community solar as a leadership member of the CCSA19, as we prepare to expand into new markets and continue to positively impact people, power, and the planet with solar energy into 2022.

IPS founder, Ralph Jacobson speaking at our 30 year solar-bration
Photo Credit: Gregg Mast, CEEM 

Reflecting on the UK Trade Mission

By Eric Pasi

It was an honor to join Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on a trade mission to Europe in mid-November. The delegation was filled with experts from various fields including ours, Energy and Environment. I was only able to join for the UK portion which was jam-packed with productive meetings, conversations, and idea-sharing. Regional Trade Manager Steve Riedel from Minnesota Department of Economic Development was a great leader for our Environment and Energy delegation. He helped identify and facilitate a variety of engagements with our European counterparts, distilled into concise daily agendas.

There were multiple references to the “special relationship” enjoyed by the US and UK. In terms of climate goals, Minnesota and the UK share an outsized ambition to significantly curb GHG emissions over the next few decades. Our common interests include the accelerated adoption of cold-climate electric heat pumps, electrification of our transportation industries, and advent of offshore wind technologies in the US, much of which has been pioneered in the UK.

Several event highlights included visiting start-up accelerator Sustainable Ventures, whose offices boasted an incredible view of parliament and Big Ben. We toured London’s greenest office building at Southworks and learned about AI technology for autonomous vehicles at the Smart Mobility Living Lab. My favorite part of the trip had to be the briefing and social hour at the US Embassy, which played host to most of our UK collaborators.

An obligatory selfie of Eric Pasi at the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom.

The view of Parliament and Big Ben as seen from Sustainable Ventures.

At the conclusion of our trip I was thankful to have had an opportunity to share my relevant experience with our counterparts in London. The intersection between clean, but intermittent resources like wind and solar, and flexible loads like electric cars, green hydrogen, and heat pumps can improve the grid and reduce costs. The orchestration between generation and loads will be absolutely critical. Several contacts I met specialize in different facets of these value chains; fostering further innovation in this space will help ratepayers, utilities, and the planet. I look forward to building on these relationships and ideas in my development role at IPS.

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What’s Holding Energy Storage Back in Minnesota?

This content was originally published by Clean Energy Economy MN, the business voice for energy efficiency and clean energy in Minnesota. View the original post, guest authored by our founder, Ralph Jacobson here

Most people understand generally that solar energy becomes more valuable if some of it can be stored, to be available to be “dispatchable” when it is needed, and not just when the sun shines. It’s also pretty obvious that we can deploy more solar capacity if some of the energy can be stored, rather than waste solar production that can’t be used immediately. But precisely because storage is such a boon to solar, most of us tend to view energy storage as just an extension of solar technology, like solar on steroids. This is not very helpful for building a market for energy storage, because while solar needs to be optimized for maximum energy production, storage needs to be optimized for reliable capacity in specific functions (or “use-cases”) in the electric power grid. Effective storage policy should identify which use-cases will have the most value at different stages in our shift to cleaner energy sources.

Energy storage will pattern after the solar market in one significant way however: as the price of storage technologies comes down, the market will open up little by little. Uses for stored energy that are too expensive to finance today will become viable in the energy market as milestones of cost reduction and innovation are passed. Ironically, fossil fuels are stored energy, while direct use of solar energy is a new thing – storage brings it full circle, in a way. Our whole way of thinking about the electric power system is based on the luxury of drawing from huge reserves of fossil energy stored underground. Not only will energy storage make solar energy a better fit for the power grid but the timing of stored solar dispatch to the power grid can replace the dirtiest fossil-based power.

Our Starting Point in Minnesota

In 2013, the Minnesota Department of Commerce completed a cost-benefit analysis of four different use-cases for energy storage, commissioned by the 2012 legislature. At the annual CERTs conference that year, we sat through a presentation of the results and learned that only the case of utility-controlled storage had some near-term promise. I looked around the room at the assembly of solar industry advocates and leaders and felt a mood of dismay that the study had found so little market potential for any of the non-utility cases in the existing solar market. I will admit we were hoping some easy opportunities would be handed to us, and little did we know how important that information could be.

Energy Storage Infographic

Learning from Other States’ Experience

At an energy storage conference in California the next year, I learned that the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had just set a target of an amazing 1.3 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2020, and that the state suddenly had the hottest market for storage in the US. Two of the best presentations were given, notably, by Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Power and Gas. They each clearly described the issues they were having, and had practical ideas for developers.

Utility Acceptance of ES: the Vital Link from Good Policy to Good Programs

SCE was pioneering the “stack of values” approach to making stored energy more financeable at utility, community, and residential scales. I could see that in the CA regulatory environment, the utilities were taking a leadership role, working with the independent solar and storage industry to figure out solutions and make the storage market work. Understanding what has driven the creation of good programs, beyond merely good policy, will be helpful for figuring out an effective strategy to stimulate the market here in Minnesota. In each state where there is significant market activity, energy storage has shown up as a viable solution to major reliability challenges faced by utilities.

Smog Curve

Avoiding Smog in Southern California

An average day of smog in LA might compare to the worst days of wildfire smoke last summer in Minneapolis. To keep the area more livable, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has some of the country’s most stringent air quality regulations. This aggressive regulatory environment has led to earlier utility acceptance of solar energy than in most other states. Solar energy now generates a significant percentage of California’s electricity, so that the daily peak load has been pushed further and further into the evening hours, when the sun is setting. The “Duck Curve” below illustrates this challenge. SCE either has to fire up peaking plants for a short duration – an inefficient, expensive, and polluting option – or to store enough daily solar production to cover that peak.

Upstate NY

Moratorium In Near Upstate New York

A strong policy push over the past decade to move oil-based home and building heating to natural gas was so successful, that demand for natural gas exceeded supply capacity. This is a dangerous situation, and so the NY State Public Service Commission declared a moratorium on new applications for gas service and approved a suite of non-pipeline solutions. In addition, the Commission noted that the approved measures are the early stages of a long-term, comprehensive approach. This has created a strong movement towards electrification, such as heat pumps for space heating, which in turn is driving utility acceptance of solar plus storage for dispatchable electric capacity.

Replacement of Spinning Reserves in Indiana

An early use-case developed by Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) several years ago was the replacement of some of their spinning reserves (see description below) by their 20 MW lithium battery facility. Electric utilities are required by state regulators to maintain extra generation capacity equal to a percentage of their average minimum daily load; this emits a significant level of CO2 just to keep generators spinning on idle. IPL reserved a portion of their battery capacity to sit full and ready to discharge if needed, then removed an equal number of MWHs from the daily workload of a coal-fired plant, and thereby took a large step toward reducing their GHG emissions. This is known as “spin” in the storage world, and it will have more value when supported by carbon pricing. Spin applies to both coal and gas-fired generation, and it could be an important element in the value stack for our utilities.

Which Market Drivers for Energy Storage in Minnesota?

Thankfully, Minnesota utilities do not yet have challenges of such magnitude, nor do we wish to wait until they do. But if we need strong drivers to accelerate utility acceptance of energy storage, what DO we have here to provide that push toward action?

  1. GHG reduction: Some higher expectations have been set at the global climate summit COP26, so our state must move toward more enforceable greenhouse gas reduction targets. When paired with storage, wind and solar can play a larger role in meeting aggressive targets and helping utilities decarbonize sooner.
  2. Accelerated coal phase-out: Although this issue is related to reduction of GHG emissions, economic pressure continues to build for utilities to phase out coal plants. Because energy storage is dispatchable, it can help offset some of the baseload power that utilities have long relied upon for coal to provide. The challenge is to ramp clean energy and storage up and ramp coal down in a way that minimizes worker dislocations and excess financial burdens. A report by the Rocky Mountain Institute discusses several mechanisms being developed to help utilities finance that process with minimum disruption.
  3. Reliability: Because utilities are held accountable for a high level of power reliability, energy storage can be used to support the distribution system for volt-var management and frequency regulation, as costs for storage come down.

Policy Foundation for Market Development

  1. Carbon pricing or carbon tax: For some use-cases, carbon pricing would enhance the value of energy storage for utilities and provide some capital, depending on how the money is used. A carbon tax is easier and quicker for governments to implement, and can be implemented in just a few months. Cap-and-trade requires more time to develop the necessary regulations, and is more susceptible to lobbying and loopholes; it also requires the establishment of an emissions trading market.
  2. Targeted tax credits: While it may be attractive to consider a general state tax credit for energy storage, tax credits which target specific use-cases will gain broader political support, because they are less open-ended. These could be enacted to incent utilities to apply energy storage to targeted high-priority loads: for example, the large industrial customer who has an interruptible power rate with a backup diesel generator, could see a utility program to offset some of that generator use with batteries.
  3. Wholesale market: the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) is preparing interim wholesale market rules for energy storage to roll out in 2022, under FERC Rules 2222 and 841. In Minnesota, where we have a highly-regulated utility structure, the best access to the wholesale grid services markets may be by incenting the utilities themselves to act as aggregators, allowing them to keep direct relationships with their customers who want storage.
  4. Least Cost vs. Best Value: When paired with solar, energy storage does not generate any new kilowatt-hours of energy beyond what is generated by the solar. Therefore, any policy analysis mechanisms based purely upon minimizing cost per unit generating capacity will make storage look like an additional cost with little benefit. A ”best value” approach will take into account the flexibility and versatility which storage can add to the power system.
  5. Good contracts vs. overly prescriptive legislation: At larger scales, good contract templates would allow all parties to create the stack of values needed to achieve a financeable level of cash flow. For aggregation of smaller behind the meter storage systems, where tariffs are offered as standard contracts, these could allow for utility control at key times only, which would help smaller customers pursue other revenue opportunities at other times.

Peak-Shaving Is Load Management: Just Add Batteries!

Many utilities have been implementing load management for decades, using tools such as yard lights, night-time heaters, interruptible power rates and conservation programs to engage their customer bases to help minimize the high and low extremes of the daily load profile. Everybody wins when the whole electric system operates more efficiently: rates remain lower and less fuel is required. However, the evening peak load continues to be a challenge, and as more solar generation is added to the system, this will get worse: Minnesota utilities will have their own “duck curves”. Energy storage provides two benefits: not only can solar energy be stored to avoid curtailment in the middle of the day, but that stored solar energy can be applied several hours later during the peak load. The good news is that existing load management programs have already put most of the customer relationship pieces in place for energy storage to enter the market, as prices decline.

Milestones for Market Growth

Let’s imagine a timetable for use-cases to become financeable, beginning with what we learned from the 2013 Department of Commerce study. That is, for any storage use-case to achieve a high value for a utility, it must be utility-controlled, or at least allow for shared-control at key times. In several states this is already a reality, where control shifts back and forth between a non-utility owner of energy storage and their utility provider. A near-term timeline for Minnesota could include replacement of spinning reserves at key times and peak-shaving. The electric power market in Minnesota is ready for bigger policy steps to create value for energy storage, addressing challenges faced by utilities as well as communities. And if we want to see the whole process move more quickly, we must consider storage on its own terms, and not just as an extension of wind and solar.

What to Consider When Designing a Solar Ready Building

What to consider when designing a solar ready building

Why Design Solar-Ready Buildings?

Solar-ready buildings allow for future solar installations without the need for expensive adjustments and retrofits. Many existing buildings aren’t a good fit for rooftop solar due to orientation, roof size, shading or other factors. It can be incredibly expensive, or even impossible, to retrofit these buildings in a way that makes solar viable. Even new buildings may need substantial improvements to capitalize on their solar potential. 

This can be avoided by including solar production as a design criteria in the building plan, not adding it after the fact. A few simple changes to the design of a building can make adding solar more predictable and less expensive. 

Building orientation, roof layout, space for PV equipment and knowledge of local zoning and regulatory requirements are all important factors to address. NREL has published two detailed reports here and here detailing the specific technical considerations, which we’ll summarize below. 

Building Orientation & Shading

Anywhere north of the equator, PV systems perform best when facing due south. With this in mind, sloped roofs will work best with one south facing side. While flat roofs are more straightforward, they are still susceptible to shading from nearby buildings and trees. Even small amounts of shading can decrease solar production, so finding a clear area for the solar array is crucial. 

Roof Layout

A contiguous rectangle of solar panels is the most efficient layout, maximizing the system size and reducing load on the roof. A building must have enough flat, unobstructed roof space to accommodate this. With today’s current solar technology, we typically estimate that 10,000 square feet of unobstructed roof space can fit a 126kW solar array (which would produce around 148,600kWh here in Minnesota). For example, take a look at these office and multi-family residential projects. 

Plumbing & exhaust vents, chimneys and other rooftop equipment can interfere with the placement of a solar array. These obstructions should be minimized when possible, and clustered together on the north side of the roof to save space. A good rule of thumb is to place an obstruction twice as far away from the array as the obstruction is tall, to avoid any shading. 

A ballasted solar array can add between 3 to 10 pounds per square foot of load to a building’s roof. The ballast is needed to counteract potential wind uplift. This additional weight should be accounted for when determining the roof’s load capacity. This is another reason that it’s helpful to cluster your rooftop units and other obstructions together in a spot away from the solar array. Having to work around those elements will change the layout of the system, and increase the load on that particular area of the roof. 

The color and material of the roof can also impact solar performance. White TPO membrane roofs, which provide increased reflectivity, can boost solar energy production up to 15% when bifacial modules are used.  

Your roof is a long-term investment and maintaining the existing warranty is key. Before selecting a roof material and manufacturer, it’s good to look into what is required to install solar on top of that membrane and how the warranty will be maintained. Most, if not all roof manufacturers have a process in place to retain the roof warranty after a solar installation, but the requirements (and associated costs) can vary widely. 

Electrical Requirements

Designing the building’s main electrical panel to accommodate solar without utility upgrades will also make interconnection easier. A good rule of thumb is to allow for 100 amps of electrical gear for every 100kw of solar. So a 1MW rooftop solar array would require the ability to connect a 1,000 amp service to the electrical gear, via a disconnect or breaker integrated into the gear. 

Identifying where the inverters and other solar electrical equipment will be located (on the roof or near the main electrical panel) should be part of the building design process. Ensure that adequate space is left at whichever location is chosen, and there is easy access for future maintenance. We recommend leaving 15 linear feet available for new solar equipment.   

Zoning, Permitting & Policy

Zoning laws, permitting requirements and their potential impact should be understood during the building planning process. These rules can cover the potential height of new neighboring buildings, how close a solar array can be to the edge of the roof or if there are historic preservation protections in place. 

Depending on the location of the building, there may be system size limits or interconnection restrictions that impact the solar system design. For example, in Xcel Energy territory in Minnesota, solar systems can be net metered up to 120% of a building’s energy usage or 1MW, whichever is reached first. Most other utilities in Minnesota only allow net metering up to 40kW. Similarly, knowing which federal, state and utility incentives are available will help maximize the solar project’s positive financial impact. 

Let’s Talk About Solar-Ready Buildings

Overall, there is a lot to consider when designing a solar-ready building, but the long term benefits are more than worth the extra planning. Impact Power Solutions has been helping organizations implement solar projects for over 30 years. If you’re interested in learning more about designing a solar-ready building, or want to see how solar can work for your organization, reach out to us today! 

Illinois’ Upcoming Commercial Solar Revolution

By Eric Pasi, CDO of IPS Solar

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) was passed into law on Sep 15th as a landmark bill that prioritizes renewable energy investment in Illinois through the 2020’s, on a pathway to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.  There are many implications and opportunities for organizations looking for predictable and lucrative returns while addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. This is the most opportune time for Illinois facility operators to adopt clean energy strategies. 

Why CEJA and Why Now?

In order to meet carbon reduction goals, nuclear energy is a “must have” technology, at least as it stands today.  Exelon, parent company of ComEd – the state’s largest utility and primary service provider to the Chicago-land area, was on the verge of shutting down two of its nuclear facilities in Dresden and Byron due to a lack of sufficient funding. This bill provides up to $700MM in funding for nuclear facilities, some of which may be matched by federal dollars. Recent extreme weather events were also on the minds of state officials.  At the bill signing Governor Pritzker remarked on historic disasters over the past two and half years including polar vortexes, flooding, record lake levels, heat waves, all of which resulted in emergency declarations in more than a third of Illinois counties. In 2016 the state passed the Future Energy Jobs Act which allocated funding for residents, businesses, municipalities and other organizations to adopt clean energy.  The primary problem was a lack of ongoing funding, which created a boom and bust for the solar industry, putting thousands of jobs in limbo. As part of the Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, this funding is set on a more sustainable pathway, with funding allocations in place through 2030.  Other aspects of the bill include a focus on marginalized communities and entrepreneurs of color, as well as jobs training and placement for fossil fuel workers as those facilities retire across the state. There will be significant investment into utility-scale clean energy projects, but how does the bill affect Illinois organizations and how can they get in on the action?

Solar Means Business (Opportunities)

The primary incentive program for solar and renewable projects is the Adjustable Block Program (ABP), which is curated by the Illinois Power Agency.  With the new bill the ABP is fully funded for the next decade, with allocations specifically for organizations and public entities.

Onsite Solar

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act - rooftop

Onsite solar projects, located on roofs, on the ground, or on carports, have an allocation of at least 100 megawatts DC per year.  This is the best ROI opportunity for organizations.

  • Incentive compensation is based on selling Renewable Energy Credits (or RECs) to the utility via the ABP program.
  • No project can be larger then 2 megawatts AC (DC sizing can vary but is generally estimated at 1.4MWdc to 1MWac)
  • The pricing of these RECs is attractive, often valued as much as the utility rate itself. REC contracts have a term of 15-years, but accelerated funding payments are fully paid  in  only 7 years.  There are clawback provisions should the system underperform over that 15-year period.
  • Each year incentive funding is segmented into blocks, which decline in value slightly as allocations fill up.
  • Prevailing wage required for all projects except single family residential, multi-family residential, and houses of worship under 100kW.
  • There is a Smart Inverter rebate from the utilities which results in ~10-15% of the project cost being paid upfront as a cash rebate.  This rebate is recalculated once market penetration reaches a certain threshold, as determined by the utilities and Illinois Power Agency
  • Most organizations will realize a 4-5 year simple payback, for an asset that operates for 25 years or more.
  • There are many financing options including Power Purchase Agreements and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which allows organizations to pay for energy improvements via their property taxes (see our PACE blog here).

Community Solar 

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act - Community Solar

Community Solar allows residents and organizations to participate in offsite solar projects, in instances where they either can’t or don’t want panels installed on their homes or buildings. 

  • At least 50% of a community solar project must be subscribed by residential accounts, leaving up to 50% eligible for commercial entities.
  • Organizations with significant roof space or open land can lease space for community solar projects.  This can be an excellent community engagement tool. For building owners, revenues may be lower compared to traditional leasing but these areas are typically underutilized.
  • The first 2 years of annual capacity (250MWac) will open simultaneously within the first 6 months of the bill passing. 
    • 70% of capacity will be designated for Group B (ComEd area)
    • 30% of capacity is available to Group A (Ameren area)
    • Projects will be selected from the existing community solar project waitlist, which means developers will have up to 250,000,000 kWh of subscription capacity for commercial entities in 2022 statewide.
  • New community solar applications allow for project sizes up to 5MWac per site.
  • Specific funding and preferences will be given to projects that address under-served communities via the state’s “Solar for All” program.

Other Programs

  • Electric vehicle incentives will be available both for the vehicle purchasing and charging infrastructure.
  • Energy efficiency and innovation programs will be funded via the utilities.
  • The Solar for All program will support new BIPOC-led businesses with grant funding.

The Time is Now

Impact Power Solutions is proud to have advocated for this bill over the last several years alongside many other stakeholders. IPS helps its clients analyze, prioritize and adopt solar strategies across their portfolio of properties. The popularity of these programs will only increase so it is critical to start the evaluation process in order to benefit from upcoming rounds of the Adjustable Block Program.  Organizations interested in learning more about the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act can contact IPS.

How Solar Can Help Your Company Achieve Corporate Sustainability Goals

Many companies are turning to solar to achieve their corporate sustainability goals in response to shifting external factors, investor attitudes, and stakeholder preferences. With interest in corporate solar surging, we wanted to highlight recent examples of those external factors, show how solar can help, and illustrate how solar has helped our clients and collaborators achieve their goals. 

What Is Corporate Sustainability?

As the Ivey Business Journal puts it, “Corporate sustainability recognizes that corporate growth and profitability are important, it also requires the corporation to pursue societal goals, specifically those relating to sustainable development — environmental protection, social justice and equity, and economic development.”

Unfortunately, many companies struggle to gauge the effectiveness of their programs. A recent survey of both public and private companies revealed that while 81% of respondents’ companies have formal programs in place, only 50% of those respondents believe their company performs effectively. Fortunately, solar can help companies produce substantial, measurable results for their corporate sustainability goals. 

Environmental Protection 

A recent United Nations report, approved by 195 governments and based on 14,000 studies, confirms that humans are responsible for climate change. While the results are unsettling, there is still hope to achieve the best outcome with a coordinated effort and swift policy change. Since solar energy systems do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, they can drastically reduce your organization’s carbon footprint and are also an impactful way to advance your building’s green credentials. While your company may not influence policy, it can still take part in the coordinated effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Take The Vomela Companies’ on-site solar array as a recent example. The company is projected to offset nearly 36,000 tons of CO2 over the next 30 years, which will make a significant and positive environmental impact. That’s the equivalent to adding 44,000 acres of trees to our forests. Additionally, the company achieved the sustainable green printing certification by pairing solar with other environmentally conscious practices.


The Vomela Companies Rooftop Solar Array  An Aerial View of The Vomela Companies’ rooftop solar array in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Social Justice and Equity 

The senate recently passed the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, allocating $36 billion in investment to fight climate change. In the proposal it states that, “the plan prioritizes addressing long-standing and persistent racial injustice. The plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities.” 

According to the IEA, solar energy has surpassed all other forms of energy as the most affordable electricity source in the world. Despite this, disadvantaged communities have less access to solar energy and its benefits compared to their counterparts. As outlined by the Scientific American, ”Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to solar power, regardless of income, highlighting the need for environmental justice.” Providing these communities with access to cheap, clean energy is an actionable way for organizations to take part in both social and environmental change.  

Look at Shiloh Temple’s rooftop community solar project as a recent example. Faith groups, businesses, and organizations across North Minneapolis banded together to create positive change. While other solar gardens are being developed to allow large corporations or municipal governments to subscribe, this garden demonstrates a new model by placing clean energy in a low-income community of color, creating green jobs for local residents, and ensuring access to community solar. 


Community members participating in Shiloh Temple's ribbon cutting eventCommunity members participating in Shiloh Temple’s ribbon cutting event.

Economic Development

In a recent statement by SEC chairman Gary Gensler, it was announced that plans are in development for mandatory climate reporting by the end of the year, signaling publicly traded organizations to be prepared for addressing environmental, social, and governance issues. Larry Fink’s 2021 annual BlackRock CEO letter said it best. “There is no company whose business model won’t be profoundly affected by the transition to a net zero economy.” 

Jobs in the solar industry are growing 17 times faster than the US economy and 90% of newly installed electric capacity was from renewable sources in 2020. Solar installer has been consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing jobs in the US in the past 5 years, according to the SEIA. Companies that meet their energy needs with rooftop solar are supporting economic development through manufacturing, installation, and more. Opportunities for companies to support economic development with solar are not limited to rooftop installations, either. Sourcing energy from community solar gardens provides economic support to rural communities, while giving farmers and landowners a valuable opportunity to diversify income streams. 

In a recent collaboration with Summit Academy, Target Corporation, and the City of Minneapolis, IPS led a workshop with recent Summit Academy grads and solar career hopefuls to help prepare them for NABCEP certification, the most well established certification in the renewable energy field. The IPS team shared their solar industry knowledge, the students received real world experience, and Target Corporation reinforced their commitment to renewable energy by supporting future renewable energy leaders.


Recent Summit Academy Grads, IPS team members, and Target representatives

Recent Summit Academy grads, Target representatives, and IPS team members.

Consider Solar for Accomplishing Your Company’s Corporate Sustainability Goals.  

If your company is looking for practical ways to achieve its corporate sustainability goals, we encourage you to evaluate solar. In addition to drastically reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, solar can compliment multiple company initiatives. Interested in learning more about what solar would look like for your company? Request a quote to see if solar is right for you! We’ve been happy to learn about your energy needs, educate inquirers, and demonstrate Solar’s payback for over 30 years.