Apprentice Spotlight: Dan Meyers

Apprentice Spotlight: Dan Meyers

During national Apprenticeship Week, we’re taking a look inside Ideal Energy’s electrical apprenticeship program and the careers that are reshaping our energy future

Apprentice Spotlight: Dan Meyers

Dan Myers is nearly two-thirds of the way through his apprenticeship and he’s excited for the next step. He says that his favorite part of being an electrical apprentice is that there are unlimited growth opportunities, and he feels challenged to evolve with technology and develop new skills as he works.

Dan’s Journeyman test is right around the corner, and he is looking forward to using his licensing to help develop the field of renewable energy.

Q: What would you say you’ve found most surprising or interesting about your work with Ideal Energy Solar?

Well the solar field, even though it’s established, is still in its infancy. It’s always growing and changing, and that’s what’s most interesting about it. From year to year, you’re challenged to evolve with the field, and you’re always entertained by the new developments in technology and sustainability.

Q: How is your work as an apprentice coming along?

Well I’m a year and a half into the program and about 2/3 of the way through the hours I need. I’m doing the schooling at the same time while I’m working, too.

I actually had previous electronic engineering schooling before working here, and that did help a little with background knowledge. It’s not necessary, but it helped me. And since our inverters have some small circuitry it’s fun to be able to help in that area as part of the team.

Q: Do you feel that your licensing will set you up for the kind of growth you want to see in your life?

Well renewables are the future. I like them a lot – I like the independence and the freedom they bring. We can’t keep burning fossil fuels, so the move to cleaner and more efficient energy sources is inevitable. So I’ll be sticking with it.

Q: Do you see yourself staying in renewables long term? Has this field left a positive mark on you that makes you want to stay with solar or something similar?

I certainly could with what I’ve learned here, and I know it’s a goal some people have, but I think that level of work isn’t for me. I like the kind of work I’m doing – hands-on, putting the pieces together, knowing the code, applying it to what I’m doing. It’s very satisfying.

Q: What advice can you give to those considering entering this field?

It may seem intimidating, but if you set your mind to it you’ll get it, and you’ll probably really like it. It’s worth it 100%.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Explore in Depth

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Apprentice Spotlight: Mattie Kennedy

Apprentice Spotlight: Mattie Kennedy

During national Apprenticeship Week, we’re taking a look inside Ideal Energy’s electrical apprenticeship program and the careers that are reshaping our energy future

Apprentice Spotlight: Mattie Kennedy

Mattie Kennedy is working hard to complete his apprenticeship, and says he enjoys the path he’s taking toward his goals in the electrical and renewable energy fields.

Mattie is looking forward to passing the Journeyman test, as it’ll give him the freedom to work without direct supervision and to help other apprentices learn on the job. He’s excited to see what this forward-thinking field will come up with in the years to come.

Q: So you’re a Wisconsin native – what makes Fairfield your home?

I’m very interested in sustainability and the movements that are developing those technologies, and Fairfield is known for that. I also love the art and culture scene. It can be hard to find such a welcoming community that has the things I’m looking for, but that’s why I like Fairfield.

Q: Was becoming an electrician something that you always wanted to be?

Well, as an adult I actually started out in graphic arts but quickly found out that sitting in front of a computer all day just wasn’t something I could be happy doing. So since construction was my other long-time interest I decided to explore that. I wanted something structured – a structured direction within construction that was realistic and had growth.

Renewable energy is very marketable, there’s policy for it, it’s an industry that’s already established enough to be solid but it’s still evolving. I also very quickly learned while in school that I do not enjoy the policy side – I much prefer the hands-on side. There are so many places to go in this field, and I love that.

Q: Do you have any guidance that you can give to other potential or aspiring electricians out there?

Well, for me you really have to have fun with it. You have to have fun at work.

I like that this is a puzzle to solve – it’s always a puzzle. A puzzle that can be dangerous, honestly, which makes it logical that you have to meet so many qualifications to practice as an electrician.

I’ve found that if you enjoy the people you work with and for, and if you enjoy what you do, that’s what’ll get you through. There are going to be normal days, there are going to be long days, and there are going to be days that seem like they’ll never end. You’re not going to get through those tough days if you don’t actively like what you do. You just won’t – you’re going to hate it. I don’t have that problem, because I love where I am.

Q: It seems like a lot of people put too much pressure on themselves to get a degree just for the sake of getting a degree. Do you see value in that as opposed to pursuing a trade?

I’ve found that people don’t really care about the degree you get unless it’s a really specific field you’re going into. I didn’t know that going into a trade was an option, so I started with a bachelor’s degree, but it didn’t do much for me.

The trade field is so nice because I can go to school part-time, work full-time, and knock out my license within a few years. And no debt! It’s built for success while working, and that makes it much easier and much more realistic for me. I wish trade school was something I’d known about when I was considering my options.

Q: Do you plan to stay in renewables?

Renewables are my favorite for now. If this field develops something that makes more sense or is more efficient, I may move in that direction! But one of my favorite things about renewable energy is that it’s not going anywhere. It’s evolving away from the more antiquated technologies like fossil fuels and old motors, and it’s always changing.

Q: What kinds of exposure and opportunity have you gotten here that you wouldn’t have been able to get elsewhere?

I have been able to work in several areas of the field that helped me determine what I prefer to do. I did some work with the computer “brains” that work the inverters and learned how to troubleshoot them when the need arose. One of those situations where I stepped into a position that wasn’t filled and developed the skills to do what needed to be done.

Because of that, I realized that even though I was good at the troubleshooting and monitoring of systems, it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term, so I trained someone to take that over. Now I’m doing something that really holds my interest.

We’re able to explore so much here at Ideal Energy to find what suits us best – it never gets boring.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

When it comes to transportation, the future is electric. By 2025, 7 million electric vehicles are projected to be on the road in the US, with 5 million charge ports to support these vehicles. What will happen to our grid when the motor vehicle industry becomes electrified?

Ideal Apprentice Spotlight: Corbin Shy

Ideal Apprentice Spotlight: Corbin Shy

During national Apprenticeship Week, we’re taking a look inside Ideal Energy’s electrical apprenticeship program and the careers that are reshaping our energy future

Apprentice Spotlight: Corbin Shy

Corbin Shy began with Ideal Energy in 2015 and is now completing his on-the-job training for his electrical apprenticeship. Corbin is excited to share his experience with anyone looking for a fascinating and boundless career.

As Corbin nears the end of his apprenticeship, the next step for him is the Journeyman test – a licensing exam that elevates electrical workers from “apprentices” to qualified electricians, and which allows them to work with other apprentices to grow their knowledge and experience

Q: Electrical apprenticeship seems fairly involved. Can you tell us about how big an undertaking it is?

It’s big, but it should be big to work in this field. You have to get a 2-year degree, so that’s one part of it, and the other part is that you have to log a certain number of supervised hours working as an apprentice and learning on the job. That’s what you have to do to take your Journeyman test.

You can get your schooling out of the way before you begin an apprenticeship, or you can start as an apprentice and do your schooling and hours requirements while working for a good company like I did with Ideal Energy.

Q: What makes it worth the effort?

It’s definitely worth it. It’s pretty good pay as an apprentice, and no matter what happens, if and when I pass my Journeyman test I can go pretty much anywhere I want to go and find a good job. But I like Fairfield and I am comfortable here. I like working for Ideal Energy, and I like the renewable energy field, so I think I’ll be here for quite a while.

Q: Is electrical work stressful by nature?

Stress is optional. It’s entirely optional. But no – I think even though there are definitely frustrations, enjoying the people and the job makes a big difference. I like it here and I really like the people I work with. It’s a nice family-type setting – all of the people here are friends.

Q: As a Journeyman you have a lot of flexibility and employability, but do you think you’d like to take it further? Getting your Master Electrician license?

I certainly could with what I’ve learned here, and I know it’s a goal some people have, but I think that level of work isn’t for me. I like the kind of work I’m doing – hands-on, putting the pieces together, knowing the code, applying it to what I’m doing. It’s very satisfying.

Q: Would you like to explore the renewable energy field more?

Well, we keep growing here – doors are opening up here all the time, so you never know what you’ll get to learn and work on next. It’s great.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

When it comes to transportation, the future is electric. By 2025, 7 million electric vehicles are projected to be on the road in the US, with 5 million charge ports to support these vehicles. What will happen to our grid when the motor vehicle industry becomes electrified?

National Apprenticeship Week: Growing the Solar Workforce

National Apprenticeship Week: Growing the Solar Workforce

During national Apprenticeship Week, we’re taking a look inside Ideal Energy’s electrical apprenticeship program and the careers that are reshaping our energy future

Building a career in America’s clean energy workforce

This week is the Department of Labor’s National Apprenticeship Week – a week dedicated to spotlighting and celebrating the unique and empowered paths that apprentices take to form their careers.

In the electrical field there’s a very specific path by which apprentices gain certification, become certified electrical “Journeymen,” and potentially Master Electricians. This process is easy to get into, but can seem intimidating without the right support and guidance. That’s why Ideal Energy has developed an apprenticeship program and offers support to our outstanding employees who are looking to advance a career in renewable energy.

Our Apprenticeship Program:

  • Trains a skilled workforce for solar – one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy
  • Supports entry-level and experienced electrical apprentices through their certification process
  • Provides competitive pay alongside expertise and training to apprentices to during their certifications
  • Gives apprentices the opportunity to gain experience with cutting-edge renewable energy solutions alongside classical electrical skills
  • Fosters success as an Journeyman in a highly marketable and limitless trade

Why become an Elecetrical Apprentice?

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that as the U.S. economy grows with 11.5 million jobs over the next decade, solar employment will increase by 105 percent — more than any other occupation in the United States. Building a clean energy economy in the Midwest requires a workforce that can design, deploy and service the advanced clean energy solutions that we’re implementing today at Ideal Energy, including solar and battery energy storage.

Electricians are in short supply, and we want to help men and women grow within a trade that’s reshaping the future. Electricity is all around us and used in nearly every part of our modern lives. The applications for the electrical trade are endless. We are reshaping our energy future with clean energy technologies like solar, and battery energy storage and it’s an exciting time to partake in this change.

Celebrating the Ideal Energy Electrical Teams

This week we’d like to celebrate our apprentices and the Master Electrician who oversees our program. Our apprenticeship program is helping to establish quality job opportunities while building our nation’s clean energy workforce. Throughout the week we’ll be sharing the unique stories and perspectives from our electrical team, and give you an idea of what it’s like to be an apprentice in at Ideal Energy.

Brian Robbins, Master Electrician

Brian Robbins is Ideal Energy’s resident Master and NABCEP Certified Electrician, and head of our apprenticeship program.

He started at Ideal Energy in 2013 with some electrical apprenticeship hours under his belt, but needed to complete is electrical coursework and on-the-job training hours before he could become a Journeyman.

Brian became the first participant in Ideal Energy’s apprenticeship program, and is now a Master Electrician. His NABCEP Certification – the gold standard of electrical certifications – was also attained along the way. In addition to overseeing all electrical teams at Ideal Energy, Brian now supervises our growing apprenticeship program.

High demand charges?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how battery energy storage systems can help.

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

Electric Vehicles and the Future of the Grid

When it comes to transportation, the future is electric. By 2025, 7 million electric vehicles are projected to be on the road in the US, with 5 million charge ports to support these vehicles. What will happen to our grid when the motor vehicle industry becomes electrified?

French-Reneker Associates switches to solar power

French-Reneker Associates switches to solar power

Iowa engineering firm sets an example for clients with solar

The Ideal Newsroom | 10.25.2018

French-Reneker Associates switches to solar power

FAIRFIELD, Iowa, (October 2nd, 2018) – French-Reneker-Associates, a southeast Iowa civil and environmental engineering company, is installing a solar array behind its office on South Main Street in Fairfield. The 40.8 kilowatt (kW) array will provide around 80% of the building’s electricity and save the company over $9,000 per year. In addition to saving the company an estimated $200,255 over the next 25 years, the array will also prevent 841 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere during that same period – equivalent to over two million miles of driving in a typical car.

For Steve Hausner, president of French-Reneker-Associates, slashing the company’s high utility costs was a priority. “When I took over as president four years ago I learned about some of the costs of running this business. I was quite surprised to see that our average electric bill was just over $1000 a month,” he said. “I thought, ‘That’s six or eight times more than I pay for my house, which is only 3 times smaller. What’s the deal here?’ So there was room for improvement on that electric bill.”

The company considered solar several years ago, but did not pursue it at the time. “We like to go with technologies that are tried and true, both in our designs and how we run our business. At that time solar was still relatively new in this area and we weren’t ready to jump on that just yet,” Hausner said.

In the years since, the price of solar has dropped and the technology has proven itself throughout the Midwest. Now, French-Reneker-Associates’ engineering staff is confident that solar is a sound decision. “It appears to me we could pay for this in three years, and after that we’re paying 20% of that $1000 monthly bill. That’s a pretty quick payoff,” Hausner said.

We could pay for this in three years, and after that we’re paying 20% of that $1000 monthly bill. That’s a pretty quick payoff.

–Steve Hausner, President, French-Reneker Associates

According to Ideal Energy, which designed and built the array, French-Reneker-Associates’ investment in clean energy has among the fastest payback periods seen so far in solar projects in the area. Aurelien Windenberger, finance and design expert at Ideal Energy, attributed the fast payback period to the falling cost of solar and the high price French-Reneker-Associates pays for electricity.

“French-Reneker is on a high-priced commercial utility tariff, but at 40 kW, the array was large enough to generate economies of scale,” Windenberger said. In addition, the company’s electric usage and utility rates are highest in summer, when solar production is also highest. A good location for a ground-mounted array with very little shade rounded out the factors that made the solar array an excellent investment.

French-Reneker-Associates also upgraded its lighting to LEDs. By switching to more efficient lighting before building the solar array the company was able to increase its savings and install only as much solar as it needed.

“Our solar system is sized with the LED lights,” Hausner said. Ideal Energy performed an energy audit and installed the lighting. “It made it very easy for us,” Hausner explained. “We didn’t have to deal with different contractors.”

The LED lighting has already saved money compared to this time last year. “The conversion from fluorescent to LED lighting represented about a 20% decrease in our electric usage right there,” Hausner said. “I was impressed to see that.”

French-Reneker-Associates, which primarily works with municipalities on projects ranging from roads to sanitary sewage to trail systems like the Fairfield Loop Trail, said that the solar project dovetails with the values of its customers. Fairfield and Bloomfield, two of the company’s larger customers, have significant solar projects of their own. “The solar array identifies that we have similar goals,” Hausner said.

For Hausner and his colleagues the most important consideration was the value they saw in their solar investment. “We’re engineers, we can figure the numbers out,” he said. “The numbers proved themselves.”

High electrical bills?

Work with an Ideal Energy expert to discover how solar can give you a compeditive edge.

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Women Empowered

Women Empowered

Women Empowered

A short film about the leaders driving Iowa’s energy future.

About the Film

Over the past several years, some of the most monumental and groundbreaking solar projects that we’ve designed and implemented here at Ideal Energy have been led by women business leaders.

I’ve had the honor of working with Iowa’s most dynamic female entrepreneurs on these projects and seen firsthand the role that women are playing in reshaping Iowa’s energy future.

Though their industries and paths to success differ, all of these entrepreneurs are creating an energy paradigm that is both highly profitable and environmentally responsible. Because of their projects, we’re all moving closer to a clean, abundant energy future.

This film is a tribute to these leaders, and a way to share their story. I hope that you will join me in celebrating the accomplishments of these trailblazing Iowa women.

Amy Van Beek

Co-Founder & CMO, Ideal Energy

Jenny Steffensmeier
Owner & President, Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing

Jenny took over as president of Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing (SWM) after the untimely passing of her husband Ben, the company’s founder. One of her first major decisions after taking the reins was implementing a solar energy installation.

Jenny assembled a leadership team to study the pros and cons of solar power. The team’s research showed solar was well worth pursuing. Ideal Energy was chosen to design and build the array. The two companies developed an ambitious ‘net-zero’ design, meaning the array provides 100% of Steffensmeier’s energy needs.

Jenny’s decision is saving SWM over $90,000 a year and has allowed her to invest in her employees by improving benefits and offering additional training, hire new workers, expand production, and give back to the community.

Jenny’s dynamism as president of SWM, and the success of the company’s solar project, have garnered extensive press coverage, visits from Governor Reynolds and former Governor Branstad, and a 1000 Friends of Iowa Best Development Award in the Renewable Energy category. “The coverage has been nothing but positive,” Jenny said. “It has catapulted us into view.”

www.steffweld.com

Mary Sundblad
Owner, Stuff Etc Quality Consignment Stores

Originally trained as an X-ray technician, Mary launched her business in Iowa City in 1985. Then called Kids Stuff and Kountry Krafts, it was housed in a rented 750-square-foot building behind a bar in an industrial neighborhood. Despite modest beginnings, the business’s mix of secondhand kids clothing and new country-themed goods drew a loyal fan base. Within a year the business moved into a 3,000-square-foot building. More – and larger – stores would follow.

In the last 33 years Stuff Etc’s growth has been explosive. Community-oriented values and cutting edge solutions helped Mary grow Stuff Etc from a small craft and second-hand clothing shop into the largest consignment service operation in the nation.

One of Mary’s innovations was her decision to adopt solar energy at her company’s Coralville and Cedar Rapids locations. At Stuff Etc’s flagship Coralville store, Mary chose to build a cutting edge solar and battery energy storage system – the first of its kind in Iowa. Solar energy allowed Mary to control utility costs while reinforcing her company’s commitment to sustainable values.

www.shopstuffetc.com

Lori Weaton-Schaefer
Owner & President, Agri-Industrial Plastics

After a 15-year career working for a publicly traded technology services company as a staff accountant and strategic planner, Lori returned to her hometown of Fairfield to work for Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP), the company her father founded in 1978. She brought her accounting and strategic planning experience into her new role in marketing, before advancing to the position of director of business development. After several years spent building a strong senior management team, Lori became president of the company in 2013.

AIP is now among the largest employers in Fairfield and a dominant player in the field of industrial blow molded plastic parts. The company produces over 800 different products, including plastic fuel tanks for many large, well-known OEMs in the lawn & garden, off-road, and marine industries.

One of Lori’s primary goals as president is positioning AIP as the employer of choice in the region. She believes that, in addition to saving the company a substantial amount of money on its utility bills, her company’s cutting-edge solar + Tesla battery energy storage system will send a message that AIP is a next-generation manufacturer. The state-of-the-art solar project will fit in with AIP’s high-tech robotic automation, sophisticated engineering techniques, and community-oriented culture.

“This solar array is like a giant billboard that says, ‘Guess what? This is not your old-school manufacturing building.’ It’s not dark, it’s not dingy, it’s not unsafe. It’s technical, it’s looking forward,” Lori said. She continued, “I would consider it a strategic investment for our future.”

www.agriindustrialplastics.com

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