Tag Archives: Minnesota

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.

Innovative Power Systems, Inc. (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 Innovative Power Systems. 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.