Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing – From Brownfield to Solar Field

Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing – From Brownfield to Solar Field

Ideal Energy is installing one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in Iowa at Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing location on Ninth Street in Fairfield, Iowa.

The half-megawatt project is installed where the Iowa Malleable Iron foundry once stood. Considered a toxic site in the 1990s, this restored brownfield is now being repurposed as a sustainable energy source for one of Fairfield’s leading businesses.

Thanks to a new solar energy installation currently under construction Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing (SVM) will soon get much of its power from the Sun. Located at the site of the old Iowa Malleable Iron Company foundry, this 500 kilowatt (kW) array will power SVM’s manufacturing division.

One of the largest privately-owned solar installations in Iowa, the $1.2 million project will generate over 650,000 kilowatt hours per year. Within seven years, this project will pay for itself. During the next 25 years it will prevent 10,587 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, equivalent to about 11 million pounds of coal or 25 million miles driven in a typical passenger car.

Ideal Energy designed and built the array using 1,470 Suniva photovoltaic panels connected with 15 SolarEdge inverters. The panels were attached to custom-built racking on ballasted ground mounts. Ballast was a better option than rammed posts because of the brownfield underneath. Although the brownfield was cleared of toxic chemicals by the EPA, it was nevertheless not an ideal surface for rammed posts. Building with concrete ballast allowed Ideal Energy to quickly construct racking mounts and assemble the solar field in just a few weeks.


Roger Vorhies, Vice-President of Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing, said the company decided to adopt solar power after examining the projected savings. “The reason this was an easy decision for us to make on a $1.2 million investment was because of the very limited risk,” Vorhies added.

The array will save SVM an average of around $113,000 per year in utility costs. Vorhies explained that high risk and significant capital investment are usually required to achieve an equivalent increase in revenue, which could entail developing new products, bidding larger jobs, or investing in more equipment. In contrast, using solar power provides a predictable return on investment with very low risk.

For SVM the decision to invest in solar power was made even easier due to the availability of federal tax credits, Iowa tax credits, and the accelerated depreciation that’s permitted for solar projects. Guiding clients through these incentive programs is one of Ideal Energy’s specialties.

“The reason this was an easy decision for us to make on a $1.2 million investment was because of the very limited risk.”

Roger Vorhies

Vice President, Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing


The Schaus-Vorhies Companies group has a long history of community-oriented and sustainability-focused projects. Some of the business’s past projects include the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, the Pilot Grove Savings Bank, contributions to the Jefferson County Loop Trail system and the restoration of the clock tower atop the Jefferson County Courthouse.

They also built Cambridge Investment Research’s offices, which are LEED Silver certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The buildings feature geothermal heating and cooling, low flow fixtures, natural lighting, and low VOC paint and carpet. The parking lot has a reflective surface that reduces the heat island effect.

SVM has also donated the use of its land, power, and water for an insulated greenhouse as part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-School Program. The greenhouse is filled with certified-organic topsoil. It’s warmed by the sand beds at Schaus-Vorhies Kleaning – part of SVM – via a reverse-geothermal system.


Once an essential part of Fairfield’s industrial economy, the Iowa Malleable Iron Company made iron castings for farm equipment manufacturers. It provided castings to the Louden Machinery Company in Fairfield and to Dain Manufacturing in Ottumwa, which is now part of John Deere. Iowa Malleable filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and was abandoned shortly thereafter.

svmThe Iowa Malleable facility was considered a toxic waste site in the 1990s. After a vandalism-related fuel oil spill in 1995, the EPA commenced emergency cleanup operations there, removing over 800 tons of PCB-contaminated soil, 60,000 gallons of fuel oil, and several hundred square feet of asbestos insulation and tile. After testing proved the site to be safe from contaminants, the Fairfield Economic Development Association took over ownership and demolished most of the buildings.

Several years later Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing purchased the land and remaining buildings. SVM continued the restoration of the brownfield by grading it and covering it with a layer of compacted gravel. The final step of the restoration is giving it a new purpose: providing sustainable, clean energy via solar power.

Iowa Solar Tax Credit

Iowa Solar Tax Credit

As of this publish date, yes, the Iowa Solar Tax Credit is still available for 2016. In fact, there is a current push by lawmakers to boost funding for the popular solar tax credit here in Iowa. What you won’t hear though is how fast the pool of money for the Iowa tax credit is quickly evaporating due to so much solar being installed across the state.


How does the Iowa Solar Tax Credit work?

Very similar to federal solar ITC (investment tax credit) but claimed via a different route. After your system is installed you file an online application with the Iowa Department of Revenue’s tax credit claiming system to redeem your credit, which you can then use when filing your regular taxes. As of January 2016 residential customers can claim a credit worth 50% of what their federal solar credit is worth (not to exceed $5,000), and commercial customers can claim a state credit of 50% of the federal credit  but not to exceed $20,000. While not technically a rebate, the Iowa Solar Tax Credit, along with the federal ITC, help solar customers reduce their overall tax liability.

That said, the state and federal governments consider each other’s tax credit as income and will be taxed accordingly. While our solar proposals are investment-grade with thorough financial projections and a 25 year cash flow analysis, we always encourage every customer to run our proposal by their own tax accountant so they can fit our numbers into their specific tax situations.

Will the Iowa Solar Tax Credit run out this year?

Short answer: Likely yes, just as it has in previous years.

Long answer: The state of Iowa originally set aside a 1.5 million dollar yearly pool back in 2012 that solar customers could pull from to claim their Iowa solar tax credit. Each year since, that pool has been completely used up and subsequently expanded little by little. In fact the growth of solar in Iowa has far exceeded projections from the Iowa Department of Revenue. Now the pool is currently up to 5 million, with talks to expand it even more as noted above.

If the cap is hit this year, customers who started their installation too late in the year may not be awarded the Iowa solar tax credit. With solar growing exponentially here in Iowa, we’d highly recommend getting your solar installation rolling now. Sometimes the process can take a few months to get approval by your utility company and be operational. Don’t risk missing out on the Iowa solar tax credit. Drop us a line to get started with a no-hassle chat.

Do you pay income taxes?

Do you pay income taxes?

Do you pay income taxes?

handYou do? Fantastic, we’ve got good news for you. Did you know you could cover up to 48% of the cost of a clean, solar energy system with state and federal tax credits if you’re an Iowa resident? (YES, it’s true!)

If you’re interested in using your tax dollars towards a solar installation, don’t wait! Federal & state tax credits are set to expire in 2016. Solar energy has never been more affordable. Our friendly solar experts are standing by to determine if solar is a good fit for you.
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Here’s how to get started:

checkball  STEP 1: Sign Up

Sign up for a FREE consultation online, by phone (call 800.634.4454) or stop by our HQ at 602 N 6th Street in Fairfield, IA


STEP 2: Free Consultation

Get feedback from an Ideal Energy Solar Expert during a free, no obligation consultation. We’ll outline your unique solar potential, installation size and cost, and tailor your payback to the tax incentives. Our team stays on top of the latest technology and incentives to provide the best value to you. We’re here help you determine if solar is a good fit.


STEP 3: Moving Forward

If you like what you hearing and you’re ready to move forward, we’ll send a team to survey your property and finalize construction details. We’ll sign a solar contract with final system price, investment-grade payback analysis, environmental impacts of your solar installation, final construction documents, and project timeline. Then, we’ll put you in the construction queue and start permitting and utility interconnection.

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STEP 4: It’s on!

Our team will complete a quality installation, complete inspections, and commission your system. Once the utility grants Permission to Operate, you’re up and running. Our team will provide the necessary paperwork for you to secure your tax incentives.

Ready to move forward? Sign up for a FREE solar consultation this way>

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