Tag Archives: Minnesota

Going Beyond the Balance Sheet at the Steger Wilderness Center

What is the Steger Wilderness Center? 

Located in the boreal forests of Ely, MN, the Steger Wilderness Center is a facility designed to activate our understanding of what it means to be interdependent—with each other, with our earth and as a society. For many, the Center is a place for artisans to hone their craft for the trades-work economy of the Iron Range. Much of the Center is constructed using found or repurposed building materials, and has grown with a sustainable focus since the 1970’s.   

In January of 2020, the Center sought to improve it’s renewable energy system, which had been cobbled together with donated equipment over the years. By replacing their system’s reused parts with more efficient components, the Center hoped to take the next steps toward meeting its growing energy needs sustainably. 

Sharing a Common Goal

Will Steger assembled a group to discuss what could be done to help the Center in the short and longer term. Ralph Jacobson joined the conversation after becoming acquainted through the Summer Solstice fund-raiser event which IPS sponsored in the summer of 2019. As a result, Ralph Jacobson of IPS, Brian Allen of All Energy Solar, John Kramer of Sundial – key players in competing solar companies, would collaborate to support the wilderness center’s goal. 

Upgrading the Center’s system would be a daunting task, but that’s what drew Ralph toward this project in the first place. “We like to get solar set up in places where it’s a stretch” said Ralph, “It’s a challenging project in a difficult place to get to. The kind of place that’s a bit of an adventure.” 

The three split the equipment costs, and additionally, IPS covered the labor. An IPS electrician and his apprentice installed the new equipment and battery set, and ensured the system was fit for an electrical inspection and utility interconnection. IPS visited the wilderness center in March, replacing batteries, switches, inverters, and other components throughout the spring.

Solving Problems Sustainably 

“Thanks to the upgrades provided from IPS, we now have a reliable 24/7 off grid power that has been a game changer for the Steger Wilderness Center,” said Will. “Our woodworking shop is now carbon free and everything functions with a flick of a switch. This is goodbye to our 50 year dependence on fossil fuel generated power.”

Ralph and the team were excited to finally visit the Center and get to know Will Steger, famed arctic expedition leader and the Center’s namesake. The Steger Wilderness Center certainly lived up to its ideals by connecting competitors, allowing an apprentice to hone their skills, and solving problems sustainably. Today, the project is fit for interconnection, and ready to support the Center’s growing energy needs.

Impact Power Solutions is always available to answer questions about solar. If you’d like to find out what solar would look like for your organization, feel free to email, contact, or get a quote

2020 Solar Trends: Xcel Solar Rewards Program

Xcel’s Solar*Rewards® program provides a financial incentive for residents, businesses and public entities to install solar power. Monthly payments are made to the owner of the solar system in exchange for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) produced by solar.  This is known as a performance-based incentive or PBI.


Xcel customers also qualify for Net Metering up to 1 megawatt AC (or enough power for roughly 200 homes).  If you generate more than you need, the extra energy is added to the grid, and any excess energy will be credited to your bill. 

Additionally, there’s a specific sub-program for under-resourced communities and income-qualified multi-family.


It is important to note that small commercial incentives levels are decreasing.


Also, large projects qualify for a separate bill-credit mechanism called capacity credit program or ELPC which was strengthened in 2019.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Minneapolis Green Cost Share Program

The City of Minneapolis is offering an incentive to install solar: the Green Cost Share Program. Qualifying projects will be compensated based on the solar array’s projected first year kilowatt hour production, up to $50,000.  Funding ranges from $.20 to $.40.


Priority will be given to buildings in designated Green Zones and to buildings that are participating in the 4D Affordable Housing Program.


Worth noting, projects receiving funding will require prevailing wage.

 

Quarter of Giving Recap

Here at IPS, we set a goal for our employees and company each quarter. For Q4 of this year we decided to set our focus on giving back our community. This led us to partnering with organizations impacting local individuals, families, youth, and the renewable energy industry.

In order to impact families most in need in our community, we partnered with Ronald McDonald House Upper Midwest to host two Cook for Kids events at their Oak Street location. We prepared a chicken dinner and quiche-filled brunch during the holiday season. Turns out, we have some seriously talented chefs in the IPS crew! Most importantly, we were able to feed over 150 families staying at Ronald McDonald House!

More About Ronald McDonald House Charities

We keep families together when it matters most.  We offer a warm, welcoming “home-away-from-home” and services that range from schooling to meals to family-friendly activities.

In the IPS offices, we hosted two gift drives – a winter coat drive & a non-perishable food drive

Our goal for our winter coat drive was to collect at least 30 coats for Hope4Youth, a local organization that provides resources for homeless and at-risk youth. Not only did we meet our goal, we CRUSHED it! We were able to collect over 50 coats ensuring youth stay warm in this cold Minnesota winter weather. 

More About Hope4Youth

HOPE 4 Youth is 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Minnesota that provides pathways to end youth homelessness in our community. On any given night, there are more than 6,000 homeless young people in the State of Minnesota staying on the streets, many of them right here in our community. We work hard to change the life trajectories of the youth experiencing homelessness who need us.

Whether they need basic necessities – food from the food pantry, clothes from the clothing closet, a hot shower, a hot, nutritious meal, or personal hygiene items – or help finding housing, securing employment, finishing their education, or accessing health care, we help them find a path that allows them to move forward with their lives – no longer experiencing homelessness.

Our non-perishable food drive benefited Keystone Community Services on Rice Street. Our goal was to collect over 50 canned goods, and once again the IPS staff stepped up and CRUSHED our goal! We collected over 75 non-perishable goods!

More About Keystone Community Services

We provide vital, community-based services aimed at strengthening our community, with a commitment to serving people with the greatest needs. Our services are designed with community input to meet the aspirations and respond to the changing needs of those we serve, including young people and families, seniors, and those needing food services or crisis support. We deliver high-quality, evidence-based services in neighborhood gathering places that make our community stronger.

Lastly, we continue to be an extremely proud to be a part of the Minnesota Clean Energy Economy. Partnering with organizations like Climate Generation, allows us to support some of the most valuable resources in the clean energy industry. This quarter, we sponsored Climate Generation’s Band Together concert! It was an amazing night to see talented musicians stand up for climate protection.

 

IPS Solar Announces Private Equity Investment & Changes to Key Executive Roles

Nationally recognized IPS Solar, ranked Minnesota’s top solar provider, takes on private equity investment

Poised for even more growth with new capital from SmartPitch
Ventures, IPS also announces changes to key executive roles

 

Minnesota-based IPS Solar, one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and one of the nation’s most enduring solar providers, is positioned to take on an even more prominent role in the national solar industry. IPS has formed a partnership with private equity firm SmartPitch Ventures (SmartPitch), taking on a significant capital investment through the newly formed entity called IPS Development LLC.

“This investment will enable IPS to take on an even more prominent role nationally,” confirmed Chief Development Officer Eric Pasi. “An expansion in renewable energy means more job creation locally and regionally, as well as nationally. It is also critical to addressing certain aspects of climate change.”

IPS is growing at mega-watt speed, having earned Solar Power World Magazine’s Top 500 Solar Contractor award for the last seven straight years, ranking 51 out of 415 solar companies on the magazine’s 2019 Top Solar Contractors list. IPS also received the magazine’s award for greenest contractor. The company’s board-certified project management team has installed and managed more than 1,500 projects in the upper Midwest.

Continued Pasi, “This investment, along with financial backing, will enable IPS to scale our project development efforts more quickly and efficiently. Also, the SmartPitch principals are former utility executives which will help us navigate the often tricky relationship between solar development and grid operations.”

SmartPitch is a leading later stage venture capital and private equity business focusing on disruptive technologies with a particular focus on energy. SmartPitch was founded by Gautam Chandra and Sanjiv Mahan, who have invested in and built national platforms in renewable energy, distributed generation, and competitive energy and technology businesses.

Headquartered in Fairfax, VA, SmartPitch partners with innovative founders and management teams to scale businesses entering their growth phase.

New executive roles announced

As part of this new structure, Jamie Borell moves from COO to the CEO position. Ralph Jacobson transitions from CEO to Chief Innovation Officer.

“I’m extremely excited to join forces with SmartPitch,” says Borell. “This move will enable IPS to expand our market opportunities and continue to be a top solar developer in the country.”

Agrees Jacobson, “I couldn’t have orchestrated a better transition. Jamie will assume CEO responsibilities and I will continue in an entrepreneurial role, scouting new opportunities for solar plus storage in the national market.”

Commenting on this new partnership, SmartPitch Founders Gautam Chandra and Sanjiv Mahan noted, “We are very excited about our investment in IPS Development. We look forward to working with the IPS team and growing the company into a national solar platform as part of our overall vision for growth in sustainable energy offerings.” SmartPitch will own a majority of this new partnership.

Impact Power Solutions, LLC (D.B.A. 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 delivers everything from five kilowatt residential arrays to multi-megawatt community solar gardens.

For additional information about IPS’s leadership in the solar power industry, visit http://ips-solar.com/.

Media Note: For additional information or to schedule an interview, contact Media Relations Agency at 952-697-5220.

Biography: Jamie Borell

Jamie Borell, is the incoming Chief Executive Officer at IPS Solar. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A in Political Science and a Masters of Public Policy from Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Before arriving at IPS, Jamie spent time as a project researcher for the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development.

While there, he researched and co-authored a report to the Minnesota Legislature on developing the hydrogen and renewable energy industries in Minnesota. In the 14 years he has spent at IPS, Jamie has participated in many different areas of the business including business development and the past 3 years as the Chief Operating Officer.

Biography: Eric Pasi

In 2007, Eric Pasi joined IPS Solar, a company with 15 years of renewable energy experience at that time. Since then, he’s helped to accelerate significant solar power development in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Pasi has developed unique financing programs, won competitive opportunities, and jump started the company’s successful Community Solar Gardens program.

Since 2016, Pasi has helped the company grow annual gross revenues by ten fold. Recent notable projects include the Green Line Solar Corridor, 12 installations for Mounds View School District, and the Eichten’s Community Solar Garden in Chisago County.

Biography: Ralph Jacobson

Ralph is a NABCEP certified installer for both solar electric and solar thermal systems; one of only a few installers in Minnesota and Wisconsin who can make that claim. As former President of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) Ralph worked with legislators, regulators, and utilities to craft state renewable energy policy.

Ralph went through a 1 -year solar training program in 1979, found that only partly prepared him for a career in solar energy, and went back to college and earned a BS in Materials Science and Engineering at the U of MN. There he got really excited about photovoltaics. For the past 25 years, he has been creating opportunities in solar for himself and others, by growing a business and serving on the boards of the MN Renewable Energy Society and the MN Solar Energy Industry Association. In 2014 Ralph was honored with a lifetime achievement award by MnSEIA for his long term commitment to renewable energy and the solar industry in Minnesota.

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

 

Written By Ralph Jacobson

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

5. Solar Deployment Has Greatly Accelerated With CSGs.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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