Category Archives: Solar Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar Panel Recycling: How it Works

 

Written By Megan McDonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate the Solstice With IPS Solar!

 

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

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

Get Tickets!

Ticket Options

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

Your Ticket Includes: 

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

Supporting Sponsorship: $500 

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

Presenting Sponsorship: $1,000

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Investment Tax Credit

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

 

What is the ITC?

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

 

History and Future of the ITC

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


 


Impact of the ITC Step-Down

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sources

SEIA

Bloomberg

Wall Street Journal

Energy.Gov

 

 

New Changes to Xcel Energy Solar Programs

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

Solar*Rewards

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

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

PV Demand Credit

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

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

Standby Service Rider

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

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

                                                                                                   

 

 

 

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

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


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

IPS Solar stance on President’s Solar Tariff

Solar power is one of the biggest success stories in the american economy.  At 260,000 workers strong it’s a rising force in US energy.  The Midwest has seen explosive growth in recent years.  Minnesota has increased solar production by a whopping 4,000% since 2012 to over 700 megawatts, providing enough energy to power 90,000 homes.

On Monday January 22nd the Trump administration announced a 30% tax on imported solar panels and cells.  Two failed US manufacturers brought a case to the US International Trade Commission in May of last year, seeking a tariff of more than 100%.  The companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, are actually owned by international conglomerates based out of China and Germany respectively.  The fact that “pro-business” Trump is effectively bailing out bankrupt foreign-owned companies, hurting more US workers than helping, and increasing prices for consumers, is the definition of irony.

 

Are we sure this puts America first?

Many rural communities have seen major re-investment in recent years. A billion dollars of construction is happening in many ex-urban Minnesota counties, the very counties that voted heavily in favor for Trump. Wright, Goodhue, Chisago, and Carver counties, where Trump won by huge margins, all stand to gain millions in increased tax revenue and economic impact.  Land owners, many of whom identify as conservative, typically receive lease rates that are 2 to 3 times what they’d see from agricultural use. Solar will save the Red Wing School District (and local tax payers) 7 million dollars over 25 years – there are dozens of similar impacts happening across the state.

The case has already had huge consequences. 2017 and 2018 were set for record-breaking industry growth, but since the announcement last spring that Trump was expected to impose tariffs, development and construction of solar projects slowed to a crawl. Large companies purchased nearly all tariff-free panels available which squeezed smaller installation companies and distributors struggling to complete jobs. Investors were hesitant to finance what was seen as an unknown tax risk. The country installed just 12 gigawatts of solar in 2017 (estimated) compared to 15 gigawatts in 2016.


Trade is complex and solar is no exception. Most panels are manufactured abroad, and the cost of those panels has plummeted more than 90% since 2007. Whether prices are truly being manipulated or a result of more efficient processes, much like the cost of computing power over the same period, is difficult to discern. US consumers rely on affordable imports for everything from cell phones to TV’s to cars – and protectionism hasn’t overwhelmed any of those industries.

It’s still unclear whether or not NAFTA countries are affected by the ruling. Many solar projects utilize panels made in Canada and Mexico, including a company with Minnesota ties – Heliene. Heliene was part of the now retired Made-in-Minnesota program, and has facilities in Mountain Iron.  Based on the tariff, they are seeking to expand those operations which could bring much needed dollars into that area of the state.

Is this the end of Solar?

Impacts overall will most likely be muted. With no poison pill for the industry, and a reasonable sunset to the tax, a 30% hit is a speed bump and not a car wreck. Markets adjusted to the impending tariffs with significant panel price increases (~25%) in 2017 due to lack of inventory. As the issue cools off it’s expected that panel prices may increase marginally. With this tariff issue and Trump’s tax policy out of the way, certainty will restart the flow of project development and construction. Short-term contraction for a long-term trend that looks bright.

Unfortunately clean energy and climate change are inexorably linked, and thanks to a certain former vice president politics have entered that equation. Trump’s commitment to coal miners, via this tax, is coming at the cost of thousands of workers from both sides of the political aisle. Traditionally, conservatives have taken more of a free-market approach with limited government intervention – this instance seems counterintuitive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said solar would be the fastest-growing occupation in America over the next 10 years. In order to realize that statistic the country needs to set aside ideology and realize that our future stands with solar, tariffs supporting 2,000 jobs are simply not the answer.

Its unfortunate that climate change is looked at as a burden instead of a great opportunity for America to lead the world in clean technology.

 

IL Communities Preparing For FEJA

Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) will be the premier legislation to drive renewable energy and economic development in the state. Many communities, townships, school districts, colleges, and building owners are gearing up for this legislation. Along with energy efficiency improvements, this legislation calls for 1.3 GW of wind and 3 GW of solar by 2030. About 1500 MW of solar needs to be built by 2021 and of this approximately 670 MW is distributed generation.

The Illinois Power Authority has issued a draft Renewable Energy Procurement Plan and the Illinois Commerce Commission is expected to approve it by next month.

 

How Do These Programs Work?

The intent of this article is to summarize the new “Adjustable Block Program” and “Solar for All” programs. For large scale (2+ MW wind and solar projects), procurement process has been set and will go through the normal bidding process and, therefore, will not be discussed here. In a market where energy prices are very cheap, the primary mechanism to incentivize these projects is via Renewable Energy Credits (REC’s). One REC is equivalent to 1 MWh. These credits will be set according to the “Adjustable Block Program” for community solar and behind the meter projects. Depending on the size of the project and the utility company whose territory the project lies in, the Illinois Power Authority will grant REC values to incentivize these projects. There are separate blocks for community solar and those for distributed generation, which consists of commercial and industrial and residential. On the community solar side, based on IPA’s draft procurement plan, these REC values may range from just above $100/REC to just under $50/REC. Similarly on the DG side, these REC values may range from close to $80/REC to $30/REC, depending on size and the block. IPA has issued the first three blocks and the REC values in these blocks will reduce over time. Hence it is important to get in early. These REC values will be paid at an accelerated level of 100% up front for residential solar and within four years for commercial and community solar projects. All these incentives along with the federal investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation are expected to defray the up upfront cost of doing solar. For community solar blocks, there are REC adders depending on the percentage of residents subscribing to the solar array. For example, a community solar project whose subscription consists of 75% or residential clients will earn higher REC values than those that subscribe to none or very little.


On the net meter side, community solar will be net metered at whole sale electricity rates while commercial and residential will be compensated at retail electricity rates. Therefore, depending on the situation, commercial and industrial clients will benefit from “behind the meter” applications since they will earn retail rates for excess electricity sold back to the grid. Therefore, residents that cannot or do not want to put solar on their dwellings, they will benefit from subscribing to a community solar garden.


The “Solar for All Program” is designed to give access to low income communities that have higher barriers of access to solar. The program has four main categories: low income distributed generation, low income community solar, non profits and public entities, and low income community solar pilot. The REC’s in the “Solar for All Program” are supposed to mirror those in the “Adjustable Block Program” except that they will have higher values for the REC’s. In addition, with the exception of the “low income community solar pilot” program, the pay-offs for the REC’s will be upfront rather than over four years, as in the “Adjustable Block Program”. These upfront pay-offs are to further incentivize low income communities to invest in solar by defraying these upfront costs. Overall, the program will boost solar for all communities, while enabling job creation and economic development. Companies that are early movers can reap the rewards of this opportunity while helping local communities in Illinois.

Amit Shukla
amit@ips-solar.com
 

 

Trend: Smart Corporate Solar Strategies

Businesses and commercial real estate firms across the country are beginning to engage with solar in significant ways. This recent Star Tribune Article represents a growing trend among commercial businesses, that incorporating sustainability practices and creating revenue with solar is winning strategy.

“Determining how to reduce our carbon footprint is a priority for us,” said George Sherman, principal at Sherman Associates. “It’s part of our solar garden strategy.” 

Real estate firms are some of the first to jump on this opportunity. Companies like Hillcrest Development see solar as a way to attract and retain tenants, while creating compelling returns on otherwise non-productive real estate. At Home Apartments will soon pass the 1 megawatt mark with projects distributed across more than a dozen properties in the Twin Cities. In a recent interview founder Alan Spaulding said: 

“Our customers benefit, our staff benefits because they’re engaged in something they believe in, our investors get a good return on investment. It is absolutely a win-win and I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t put solar on every rooftop.” 

Manufacturers and other owner-occupiers are also leading the way with solar. Specialty Manufacturing and Louis Industries have installed thousands of panels recently in a move to reduce electricity costs and earn 8-10%+ return on investment. 

Nationally, commercial installations grew 50% year over year from 2015 to 2016 and that growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. But how are business leaders choosing to engage and what are the best opportunities? 

 

Winning Solar Strategies 

There are several ways in which companies can adopt solar power. The primary options depend on the scale and particular focus of your business …

Rooftop Community Solar Gardens

Community Solar offers tenants, building owners, and public companies the ability to participate in the same solar project, either located on-site or remotely from their building.  For their new Mendota Plaza project At Home Apartments is constructing a 150 kilowatt community solar garden which will serve residents at that building and their Common Area Maintenance meter. AHA will increase the rent for those participating in the bill credits, which will result in a net benefit for the residents on an annual basis. Companies like IPS Solar can assist in organizing these projects with the utility and arrange for financing.

PACE Solar

For those CRE firms with triple-net (NNN) lease structures it’s been difficult to justify investments in lowering utility bills that benefit their tenants.  New financing options such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) can provide debt for a project in such a way that tenants pay for those improvements through a special assessment on property taxes.  This structure allows for the owner to capture tax incentives and have tenants pay for improvements that benefit them directly.

Owner-Occupied & CAM Solar

The most straight-forward of solar projects, where property owners pay to install solar which directly benefits their electric bill or CAM meters (paid by owner).  These types of projects often come with a 10-20% internal rate of return (IRR), unlevered. Many financing options are available here.

Rooftop Leases

Don’t have tax liability or want a hands-off approach to solar? Make your roof into a revenue-generating asset by leasing it for solar power.  Solar developers like IPS will pay to install equipment and maintain the system over the life of a lease. Much like billboards or cell towers, solar offers long-term, predictable cashflow, mainly for larger roof spaces (more than 50,000 sqft). Large solar arrays can increase net operating income (NOI) significantly, which should increase a property’s value, without any upfront costs.

Solar Carports

Large parking lots are often great opportunities for solar projects.  Lease revenues for these projects will be much less or non-existent. The primary benefits are covered parking for your guests and tenants, and free pre-wiring for Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure.  According to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, automakers are set to sell 8 million EV’s per year by 2030.  People will need access to EV charging options, which could be another revenue generator in the future.

 

The resounding message is that solar can no longer be ignored.  As more real estate firms increase their NOI with solar and more businesses (and their supply chains) demand sustainable solutions, companies must at the very least develop a strategy for how to engage.  The first step is to reach out to companies like IPS Solar to understand where projects make sense within the context of your organization. A no-cost feasibility analysis can show which opportunities are most attractive, which provides a good starting place. Contact us today to develop your solar strategy.

 

 

About IPS Solar:

IPS Solar, a leading provider of solar power solutions, is focused on the development, installation and management of solar power systems for commercial, community solar and residential customers. IPS Solar is one of the fastest growing solar systems providers in the United States, delivering 5 kilowatt to multi-megawatt community solar gardens.

IPS Solar named #1 Fastest Growing Company

Coming in at #1 of the Fastest Growing Private Companies is… IPS Solar!

We’re very grateful to our internal team and our customers who made this a possibility. The benefits of solar are becoming more and more evident and in today’s global community, are becoming more and more vital. 

View Mpls / StP Business Journal Article ($)

“The two biggest challenges for us are the dynamic cash flow requirements for our projects, and finding and retaining talent. Solar is a very fast-growing industry and almost no one has relevant experience. We’ve been blessed to hire people with a ton of passion. It’s easy to train team members who are motivated.

Fortunately IPS Solar was positioned well for high growth in 2015, which led to an easier transition for us into a mid-sized business. We need to continue to educate commercial property owners that their roofs and parking lots are valuable. Solar investments are predictable and lucrative, if you don’t want to invest, we can lease your property at attractive rates.”

– IPS Solar CEO Ralph Jacobson on his views about the company’s growth and future opportunities.