Category Archives: Impact Power Solutions

Thanks For Solarbrating With Us!

Another Successful Solarbration!

Our second annual Solstice Solarbration Fundraiser is officially in the books and we’d like to extend a huge thank you everyone who helped make this special event possible! With the help of our event sponsors, raffle prize donors and attendees, we were able to raise over $7,000 for the Footprint Project and their mission of providing cleaner energy access to communities in crisis.

Check out some of our favorite pictures from the Solarbration at the Como Zoo & Conservatory! Tasty food & drinks, festive games, unique raffles, and a scavenger hunt – We hope you had as much fun as all of us. Don’t forget to share your own #solarbration pictures with us on social!

Sponsors: CED Greentech, CEEM, Muska, Sundial Energy, Unirac

Raffle Prize Donors: Como Bed & Breakfast, Connexus Energy, Eichten’s Cheese & Bison, Haven Nail Studio, Impact Power Solutions, Minnesota United FC, Minnesota Wild, Mom’s On The Run, Quality Resource Group, Utepils Brewing 

Announcing Our Second Annual Solstice Solarbration & Fundraiser!

Celebrate The Solstice With IPS!

We are excited to announce the second annual Solstice Solarbration Fundraiser! Join us at the Como Zoo & Conservatory as we celebrate the longest day of the year and support an amazing nonprofit!

The evening will include a tasty food, delicious drinks, festive music and games, with the conservatory’s beautiful views serving as the backdrop. We’ll be raising funds to support the Footprint Project, and learning more about their mission of providing cleaner energy access to communities in crisis.

Prepare for the rare occasion where the sequel is better than the original! 144 people attended the first Solarbration and we and raised over $4,000 for great causes. This year we are setting our sights even higher with a fundraising goal of $7,500!

Early Bird ticket pricing lasts until June 1st!! Reach out to kylew@ips-solar.com for information on available sponsorship opportunities!

All proceeds from the event will support the Footprint Project’s work on hurricane resilience in Louisiana, and support humanitarian energy access for Ukraine. You can donate to the Footprint Project here. The IPS team is currently working with the Footprint Project to build mobile solar-powered generators that will be delivered to New Orleans communities impacted by recent extreme weather events. We’re extremely excited to partner with them for the Solstice Solarbration! 

Buy Tickets Now!

About The Footprint Project 

Footprint Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit disaster service organization that focuses on providing cleaner energy access to communities in crisis. We work across the disaster management cycle to deploy sustainable technologies where they are needed most.

Event Details 

What: Solstice Solarbration & Fundraiser presented by Impact Power Solutions
When: Tuesday, June 14th from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Where: Como Zoo & Conservatory
Tickets: https://solarbration.eventbrite.com

Vote for IPS as MN’s Best Solar Provider

We Need Your Support!

We’ve been nominated for the Star Tribune’s annual “Minnesota’s Best” contest! Impact Power Solutions, along with 21 other companies, is competing to be voted as Minnesota’s best solar provider. 

You can vote once per day through May 18th at this website. You’ll be able to find IPS within the “Home & Garden” category in the sub-category “Solar Energy Providers”. You should see a “thank you for voting” message once your vote is submitted. 

The results will be published in the Minnesota’s Best Winners Magazine, which will be inserted in the Star Tribune newspaper on Sunday, September 25th. We’re facing some stiff competition this year, so all support is appreciated! 

Category: Home & Garden 

Sub-Category: Solar Providers

Vote Now!

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! 

Talk to Our Solar Experts

IPS Solar Acquired by New Energy Equity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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 www.allete.com/.

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 www.newenergyequity.com/

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 www.ips-solar.com


For media inquiries please contact Kyle Wehnes at kylew@ips-solar.com.

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.

Want to keep up with developments from the Midwest Solar Industry?

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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! 

The Infrastructure Bill & Climate Change: Clean Energy Connection EP. 6

(Interview starts at 0:21:00)

 

Proponents of Clean Energy: About the Guests 

Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions

Eric Pasi, Chief Development Officer, IPS 

As Chief Development Officer for Impact Power Solutions, Pasi has helped organizations analyze and adopt clean energy strategies nationwide.  He is extremely passionate about renewable power, entrepreneurship and the climate crisis. In 2020, he released his first book called “CleanWave: A Guide to Success in the Green Recovery” where he outlines the past, present, and future of clean tech, and its role in a post-COVID19 and post-George Floyd recovery.  

 

Interview Transcript

Joan E: Eric Pasi is the Chief Development Officer at Impact Power Solutions, and joins me once a month to talk about green energy issues. Eric, how are you? 


Eric P:
I am doing great. It’s infrastructure week. There’s a lot of things to talk about and a lot of things to be excited about.


Joan E:
Before we get to infrastructure, though, I want to get your reaction to the report on climate change that came out earlier this week where an international group looked at 1000s of studies that have been done all around the world, and came to the conclusion that “Yep, yeah, well, people are definitely causing climate change.” Some of it, like rising sea levels, may be with us forever, but there are other parts of what we’ve done that we might be able to undo. What did you think of the report?


Eric P:
The report
, which is known by its acronym, IPCC, which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is put together by a group of climate scientists from around the world. Just as a background, it’s sponsored by the United Nations, who develop the reports detailing data behind climate change, and the findings must be agreed upon by the 195 participating countries before release, including us. So that makes the report the definitive source of information on the subject. And the previous report, which was released in 2013, influenced the creation of the Paris Climate Agreement. And so there’s a lot of folks in the energy community who were hotly anticipating the release of the report this year.


Joan E:
Even for climate deniers, I think that things have gotten so extreme that it’s a little bit hard to say that we don’t have any role to play in this. I mean, we’re watching what is probably the second largest wildfire, the Dixie fire in California, just burning 1000s and 1000s of acres. And couple that with all these pictures I’m seeing of rivers that are half dried up and reservoirs that are 15 and 20 feet below where they normally run. I mean, how does anybody at this point say, “Well, you know, that’s not climate change.” What are the things that I used to hear all the time? “Oh, just because we have one winter where the weather’s extreme, that doesn’t prove that there’s climate change.” But now we’ve had winter after spring, after summer, after winter, after spring after summer. It seems to me overwhelming and something that just simply cannot be denied at this point in time. Is that the way you see it?


Eric P:
Yes, absolutely. I think that there’s been some moderation on on behalf of Republicans who have traditionally stood with the fossil fuel lobbies and disinformation campaigns that we’ve been seeing over the last decade plus, and I think we both can remember back to Senator Inhofe on the Senate floor with a snowball in his hand, saying that the fact that he had ice was irrefutable evidence that climate change did not exist. But I think we’re seeing a lot of moderate Republicans, young republicans, come out strong on this issue. Having the private sector and the markets really lead the transformational change. There’s a lot of data and facts to help to support that. We are seeing corporate America step up in ways that we’ve never seen before on this issue. Google is really leading the charge on providing 24 hour clean energy to their facilities, which is something that’s never been done before. We’re seeing other groups leading in this regard as well, including utilities, who have traditionally been on the opposite side, are saying now, that clean energy is the most cost effective solution for ratepayers and it is reliable. We’re seeing with the adoption of these 100% or 80% clean energy by 2030 or 2040 mandates, as really being the future. That’s given cover to a lot of folks on the right who have been on the opposite side of this issue to say, “Well, if the markets and corporations are seeing this trend I think it’s time for us to kind of set aside the differences and get on board.”


Joan E:
I know that my daughter and I did a bucket list trip, right before the pandemic really closed up the world. We went diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and they’ve had periodic problems. It’s the world’s biggest reef, but they’ve had periodic problems with bleaching. That is where the water gets so warm that the coral starts dying. When the coral dies it sets off a domino effect. When we were there in January they told us as we were diving that the temperature in the water was a degree or less away from the temperature where they know the bleaching starts. The people we were diving with said, “it’s good that you’re going on this trip now, because we don’t even know what this reef is going to look like two years from now.” Because we were teetering on the edge of the temperature that would basically kill off of the reef. It was really climate change brought home in a way that maybe the people who’ve lived through these wildfires in California, also feel it up close and personal. For so many of us, Eric, it’s been kind of theoretical. Yes, we see the ice breaking off in the Antarctic, but when you are faced with your home burning, or faced with the fact that this reef that you’re diving into may not exist two years from now, it’s just staggering the effect that it has on you and how it really creates this incredible desire to do something. I think that’s part of the problem. So much of this is human generated, but it seems so much bigger than what any one person can do. How does one person make a difference?


Eric P:
You’re totally right on, Joan, with what your experiences have shown you. There’s climate injustices all around the world. For me personally, just as an anecdote, my father was an immigrant from Tonga and I had a chance to visit his home several years ago. The island that he’s from, Tonga, is in the South Pacific, kind of near New Zealand, and it is only about nine feet above sea level. Thinking about these folks, my ancestors, being really at risk for climate devastation, when they had no role in the warming planet and releasing all these greenhouse gases, is just something that drives me. I think that when people find similar stories that are in their own lives, that can give you the power to become your own advocate. I think what needs to happen is an uprising, like maybe we haven’t seen since the Vietnam War, where people are demonstrating and out on the streets showing their passion for this issue. It’s not just the humanitarian aspect, but also the ecological aspect to this as well. Needing to preserve what’s left of this planet for future generations. That is what drives me every day. I think folks, when they tap into that power, really can spend the time and energy on this issue that it demands, and I’m hopeful that we can all do that.


Joan E:
Toward that end, as you mentioned a moment ago, it looks like we’re going to be getting a new infrastructure bill. We’re going to take a break. And when we come back, I want to talk to Eric about what this new infrastructure package may or may not mean for clean energy in this country. We’re gonna take a break and be back with Eric Pasi right after this.


Joan E:
Before the break, Eric had mentioned this new infrastructure bill that the Senate passed with a 60 to 30 vote. We are going to find out what, if anything, this potential package will mean for the clean energy industry. Eric, is there a breakdown?


Eric P:
Yeah, absolutely. So there’s two aspects of what’s happened in the last 24 hours or so. The traditional infrastructure bill, which was a bipartisan bill, was really spearheaded by folks in the Senate, like Joe Manchin, who said that we’re not going to be able to address the larger issues without at least trying for a bipartisan solution. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which included about $550 billion of new spending, did have some aspects that were pro-clean energy. That includes $73 billion for the electric grid and our infrastructure. That’s going to be super important. As we try to onboard the backlog of solar wind and other clean energy assets onto the grid, we need some upgrades to that infrastructure. There’s $21 billion for environmental remediation projects, like cleaning up Superfund sites and brownfield sites, and to sort out the abandoned gas mines which have become an increasingly big issue as companies have left these mines to essentially spew out methane and other harmful greenhouse gases. There’s money in there to address those projects.


Joan E:
Okay, I know what a Superfund site is, but what is a brownfield site?


Eric P:
It’s also a contaminated site. They’re almost synonymous, but both are having to deal with environmentally contaminated sites.


Joan E:
We have the steel works plant over by the Chicago – Gary border. There have been lots of ideas from time to time about what should be done with that land. The fear of doing anything over there is about what kind of contaminants are in the ground. Would the old steel works plant qualify under this infrastructure bill? Is that someplace that could get cleaned up once and for all?


Eric P:
Yes, absolutely. It could qualify. What we’re seeing for a lot of these superfund sites, brownfield sites and landfills is that a great pairing in those situations is to repurpose those sites as solar sites. What we’ve seen is that a lot of developers are placing solar arrays where they’re not penetrating or disturbing the ground. They’re using ballasted solutions, allowing the remediation of that site underneath the systems and then also just having a dual use where we, you know, we need this infrastructure. We need clean energy. There’s a happy medium or Mayor Between these contaminated sites and solar projects.


Joan E:
I know this might be getting too far into the weeds, but I’ve read about this before, not recently because I think the technology is changing. We were having a discussion about infrastructure and Joe Biden’s desire to promote electric vehicles and somebody texted me and said, “Well, wait a minute, didn’t I read that these electric vehicles need these special lithium batteries, and that making these lithium batteries can be as polluting as refining gasoline and burning gasoline in an engine?” I haven’t read anything about that recently. I know that when electric cars first came to prominence that was a big concern. Has the technology advanced when it comes to batteries and how they’re made and how they’re disposed of?


Eric P:
The production of lithium ion batteries is actually well established now, including recycling programs and repurposing programs. There’s quite a few examples out there, but what we are seeing is a move for some advanced battery technology away from lithium. Traditionally, China has been the by far the leader in lithium production. There’s actually some legislation that is hoping to develop some of those resources that we have in the US, including in California, but new battery technology, which would include zinc and iron ore technology, is plentiful in the US and much easier to refine. We are seeing the next generation of batteries, which will likely be coming later this decade, as more powerful, longer lasting and cheaper batteries compared to lithium ion, but lithium ion does have good processes in place for environmental mitigation.


Joan E:
Oh, well that’s good to know. Because you don’t want to make the investment of buying an electric car and then feel like you’re not really helping the environment the way you thought you were in the first place. I know that. in China they’ve mandated that not too many years in the future electric cars are going to be all that they permit. They have a huge pollution problem over there. Do you think that the scales are going to tip at some point in the near future? And what point would that be? I read the car guy who writes on weekends for the Wall Street Journal. He reviews all these Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and it’s always fun to read about him driving these supercars. Oh my god, this has to be like four years ago, I was reading his column on the weekend and he said, “you know, guys, gas engines, they’re really gone. You might still be driving one, maybe the next car you buy will still have one, but for all intents and purposes, folks, they’re gone. That technology is gone. It is part of the past. At some point, maybe in the far future, or the near future, you’re going to be driving an electric car.” This is a guy who lives and breathes V8s and V12s. For him to say this, it really made me sit up and take notice. This really is coming, isn’t it, Eric?


Eric P:
Yes, all the major car manufacturers have laid out blueprints for their future fleets and all of it is electrified. The question between them is just really how soon. We’ve seen folks as aggressive as Volvo coming out to say that they are going to have 100% of their offerings be electric by 2030 to GM and Ford, who are saying half of their fleet’s offerings will be electric by 2030. It’s really on a fast pace. Right now in the US about 2% of new car sales are electric. That’s up from about 0.1% just a few years ago. Then if you look at places like Europe, that number is closer to 8% of new cars being sold as electric and in China up to 20% already of new cars being sold being electric. This is definitely coming. Within the bipartisan infrastructure bill there is $15 billion for electric vehicles, $7.5 billion to electrify public transportation and then $7.5 billion for additional EV charging stations. We’re going to see this transformation really happen in a blink of an eye. By mid decade most folks will be opting for EVs because they’re just the better option at this point. You know if you’ve ever driven an EV that it’s just the pure joy of driving the car. It’s just so much more fun. There’s environmental benefits. It’s just a clear winner, at least from my point of view, to head in that direction.


Joan E:
Oddly, even though I wasn’t going anywhere, eight months into the pandemic I bought an electric car. Here’s the thing that was the biggest surprise to me. Even though I wasn’t driving it very often, I was driving it to the grocery store or something once in a while and I still had my previous car, the gas car. For some reason, one time I went to drive that instead of the electric car and I turned it on in the garage and all I could think of was, “oh my god, this car stinks.” I never noticed the exhaust before, but now with this car, I smell gas, I smell exhaust. I had gotten used to not having that smell. And I realized, “Oh my god, I really get it. I understand now why you know what this car is throwing up into the atmosphere, because I can smell it like I’ve never smelled it before.” One of our listeners just texted this in. “Scientists were worried about an ice shelf on the Antarctic coast the size of New Jersey. The debate was between those who thought it would be gone in 20 years and those who thought that attitude was alarmist. One lone voice said that the ice shelf could be gone in two years and everybody said he was crazy. It was gone two weeks after the debate hit the press and that was 20 years ago.” So in some respects, I think a lot of us really have been crossing our fingers and looking the other way. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about is the Illinois Path to 100 bill, because we haven’t passed the clean energy bill. I know previously, you said that there’s a soft deadline at the end of August, but we haven’t passed it. Exelon says that they’re going to be shutting down the Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants. So what is that going to mean for the state of Illinois?


Eric P:
I think that this really steps up the pressure on lawmakers to get some type of deal done. Stakeholders, including the folks on our side, are hoping that a deal to make some type of bridge for labor and retiring coal facilities is going to be part of the solution there. I can really see both sides of the argument. We need to support a transitioning workforce in Illinois that is moving from coal to renewables, but every pound of additional CO2 in the atmosphere is really compounding the drastic effects of a warming planet. In my opinion, clean energy advocates should accept what’s on the table, which is the fossil fuel subsidy as a short term trade to keep low emission nuclear facilities online, and then also new wind and solar developments on the horizon. That’s my take on it. I think we’re getting to one of the Republican lawmakers who said that this is not a bluff. Meaning that we’ve heard that Exelon is rolling out their shutdown plans this month. We need low emission nuclear facilities as a part of the solution to combat climate change. I think this is a compromise that we all need to take very seriously.


Joan E:
When the bill didn’t pass the first time around they said they weren’t waiting and were going to start the procedures. I think they were threatening to shut Byron down by the end of September, certainly by the beginning of November.


Eric P:
I feel like there’s so much at stake. I think the fossil fuel subsidies are a mistake, but we all need to just focus on the larger picture here and get a deal done. This reminds me a little bit of 2016, when there was an extension of the solar and wind tax credits at the federal level. That was made in exchange for the lift on the oil export ban. We removed that ban, but it unlocked so much more in solar and wind development. That seems like a similar situation where we have to play ball and look at the bigger picture.


Joan E:
Yeah, and while everybody would like a perfect solution, maybe in the short term, we have to settle for good and then work from there. I agree with you. I know you said before, that probably August 31st was a soft deadline for this. So let’s hope that next time you and I talk, we can say “whew, crisis averted. They did it!”


Eric P:
That’s right. This, along with the other stuff that’s happening on the federal level, could lead to a very exciting end to summer here.


Joan E:
Thanks so much, Eric. I appreciate talking to you about these issues. Thanks for joining me today. 


Eric P:
Absolutely! Have a great rest of the afternoon. 

 

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