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.”

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Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for solar + storage research

Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for solar + storage research

Ideal Energy receives a $200,000 state grant for energy storage research

The Ideal Newsroom | 10.2.2018

FAIRFIELD, Iowa, (October 2nd, 2018) – The Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) has facilitated a $200,000 research grant for Ideal Energy, a local solar company and industry leader, to further renewable energy efforts and growth in Iowa. The grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) will be used to evaluate the performance of the first large-scale solar plus battery storage installations in the state. The two installations, located in Fairfield at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company and Maharishi University of Management, are Iowa’s largest solar plus storage projects and are among the most innovative renewable energy projects in the Midwest.

Two of Ideal energy’s installations, located in Fairfield at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company and Maharishi University of Management, are Iowa’s largest solar plus storage projects and are among the most innovative renewable energy projects in the Midwest.

“We are thrilled with how this grant has come together, thanks to strong leadership from the partners behind these installations,” said Joshua Laraby, executive director for FEDA. “The research will help business and industry in Iowa lower their energy costs and increase their competitiveness.”

FEDA is sponsoring the study and will partner with Ideal Energy to carry out the research. Known as the Fairfield Energy Storage System Demonstration, the study will compare the different approaches used in each project and evaluate the return on investment, operation and maintenance considerations, battery performance and effectiveness of solar tracking. Additionally, the study will analyze job creation opportunities related to the growing storage market over the course of 18 months. Iowa State University’s (ISU) Electric Power Research Center is also partnering on the project.

“When I’m selling the state of Iowa to manufacturers around the world, I always mention our energy portfolio,” said Debi Durham, Director of IEDA. “It is surprising and differentiating that we can consistently, efficiently, and affordably meet the needs of a production-based economy with 40 percent renewable sources.”

The State of Iowa is a leader in renewable energy, thanks in-part to the Iowa Energy Plan released in December 2016. The Plan is a roadmap for maintaining the state’s momentum in the energy space and has been held up as a gold standard by industry experts. Iowa ranks second in the nation in wind generation and has a fast-growing solar energy market.

This research project has several implications for Iowa. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Iowa has among the highest demand charges in the nation, with many commercial customers paying demand charges over $20/kW. NREL research shows Iowa may have more than 23,000 customers who could benefit from solar plus battery energy storage.

This research also could provide a replicable template to increase business savings, bring solar to customers who otherwise would not be able to use it effectively and make Iowa even more nationally competitive. A state-level battery energy storage committee – formed in follow-up to the Energy Plan – will evaluate the findings of this research project and consider how to best apply lessons learned throughout Iowa.

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Agri-Industrial Plastics Company

The installation at Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP) will consist of a 517 kilowatt (kW) solar array with a lithium-ion battery energy storage system. This is the first large-scale commercial lithium-ion installation in Iowa.

The storage component uses lithium-ion batteries, which have a long lifespan and are ideal for daily cycling. AIP operates 27 production lines, 24 hours a day, which means intensified energy needs. The battery energy storage system will extend the usefulness of AIP’s solar array into the night, saving AIP more than $42,000 per year and facilitating future growth.

Maharishi Universtiy of Management

Maharishi University of Management (MUM) is installing a 1.1 megawatt (MW) solar array with a 1.1 MWH battery energy storage system. This is the largest solar plus battery storage project in Iowa. The project will bring MUM’s renewable energy share to nearly 40 percent and significantly reduce the University’s utility bills. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-November.

The installation will use an active tracking technology that allows solar panels to follow the sun’s movement across the sky, yielding up to 25 percent more energy than a fixed-tilt array. The tracking system features a vanadium flow battery which is DC coupled with the array for maximized efficiency. MUM’s solar array will generate one-third of the annual electricity needs of the University.

How Solar Plus Battery Storage Works

Battery energy storage systems are key to further technical advancement in the renewable energy industry. Batteries can be used for emergency backup, off-grid homes and more, but their most important application is peak shaving.

Peak shaving cuts expensive charges by reducing electricity consumption during peak usage times, such as summer afternoons. The charges may increase a customer’s electrical costs for the entire year and account for as much as 30 percent to 70 percent of a customer’s utility bill.

Battery energy storage systems automatically detect when power usage exceeds a predetermined threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the additional demand is over. When demand is lower the batteries recharge.

About Ideal Energy

Ideal Energy, based in Fairfield, is one of Iowa’s leading solar energy firms. Ideal will design and build the solar plus battery storage systems at Agri-Industrial Plastics and Maharishi University. Ideal Energy installed the first solar + battery storage system in the state for Coralville retailer Stuff Etc and has been a pioneer in battery energy storage in the Midwest.

Above: A 37.8 kW installation on the MUM campus, installed by Ideal Energy in 2015. Combined with the new 1.1 MW installation, these arrays enable the university to generate 40% of their power onsite.

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Agri-Industrial Plastics to install large-scale solar & storage system

-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-

Agri-Industrial Plastics to install large-scale solar & storage system

FAIRFIELD, Iowa, July 19th, 2018 – Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. (AIP), a leading manufacturer of blow molded plastic parts, is about to begin construction of a 517 kilowatt (kW) solar array and a 424 kW-hour Tesla battery system at its facility in Fairfield, Iowa. This is the first solar project in the Midwest to incorporate Tesla Powerpack.

Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of AIP, said the decision was motivated by the company’s high utility costs. Blow molding is energy intensive and the scale of AIP’s operation magnifies the company’s energy demands.

“We run 27 lines 24 hours a day,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “These are huge utility bills.”

Schaefer-Weaton also sees benefits beyond the bottom line. She expects the array to attract forward-thinking employees. The state-of-the-art solar project will fit in at AIP’s facility, which uses robotic automation, sophisticated engineering techniques, and features a clean and modern work environment. The array will also demonstrate to AIP’s customers – many of which have green initiatives of their own – that AIP is planning for the long-term.

“We think the payback will be there,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “Some of it will be in things we can measure really easily, like our utility bill. Some will be strategic, longer term, by building excitement around working at Agri-Industrial Plastics and being part of something bigger.”

Tesla Powerpack, which is a battery energy storage system designed for commercial and utility-scale customers, will allow AIP to ‘peak shave.’ Peak shaving cuts expensive demand charges by reducing electricity consumption during high times such as hot summer days. Demand charges can increase a customer’s electrical costs for the entire year and account for up to 30% to 70% of a customer’s utility bill.

Battery energy storage systems automatically detect when power usage exceeds a pre-determined threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the additional demand is over. When demand goes back down the batteries recharge.

Because AIP runs three shifts, its power usage is high at night when solar arrays are not producing. Battery energy storage systems provide a solution, allowing AIP to peak shave at any time, day or night.

Ideal Energy, one of Iowa’s leading solar energy firms, will design and build the array and install the Tesla Powerpack system. Ideal Energy installed the first solar + storage system in the state and has been a pioneer in the battery energy storage field in the Midwest.

The array, which will be built on the roof of AIP’s 340,000 square foot facility at 22nd St. and Grimes Ave., will save the company an average of $42,477 per year and prevent 9,377 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years – equivalent to over 10 million pounds of coal.

“I would consider it a strategic investment for our future,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “We’re in it for the long haul. We’re in it for our customers, we’re in it for our employees, we’re in it for our community of Fairfield.”

END

Media Contact:

Amy Van Beek
[email protected]
641-209-3288

END

Maharishi University of Management to be Powered by 1.1 Megawatt Solar Array

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Maharishi University of Management to be Powered by 1.1 Megawatt Solar Array

FAIRFIELD, Iowa, May 1st, 2018 – Maharishi University of Management (MUM) will soon be home to one of Iowa’s largest solar arrays. The 1.1 megawatt array – over 200 times the size of a typical residential array – will cover 5 acres of land adjacent to campus. The project also includes a 1 megawatt-hour battery energy storage system – the largest system of its kind in the Midwest.

The solar array will generate enough power to meet one-third of MUM’s annual electricity needs. In addition to those savings, the battery energy storage system will reduce the demand charge portion of MUM’s utility bill by around one-third.

Ideal Energy is designing and building the array. Construction is scheduled to begin early this summer and take around two months.

Not your standard solar array

Battery energy storage systems are at the cutting of edge of the renewable energy industry. Batteries can be used for emergency backup, off-grid homes, and more, but their most important application is peak shaving.

Peak shaving cuts expensive demand charges by reducing electricity consumption during peak usage times like hot summer days. Demand charges can increase a customer’s electrical costs for the entire year. For customers on demand charge utility tariffs, between 30% and 70% of the utility bill may be made up of demand charges.

Battery energy storage systems automatically detect when power usage exceeds a pre-programmed threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the extra demand is over. When demand is lower the batteries recharge.

The battery energy storage system serving MUM is among the most innovative and sophisticated systems available. NX Drive, made by NEXTracker, uses vanadium flow batteries. Unlike lithium ion batteries, vanadium flow batteries degrade very little over time – as little as 2% in 25 years.

Ideal Energy is incorporating another sophisticated design element in the array: decentralized active tracking. Active tracking systems follow the Sun’s path across the sky, yielding 20-25% more energy than a fixed tilt array.

NX Horizon, also made by NEXTracker, is a particularly advanced active tracking system because it is decentralized. Each row of solar panels has its own motor and sensors and integrates with smart control software to independently find the best angle for maximum electricity production.

The MUM array will be the first system in the Midwest to combine active tracking and battery energy storage on a large scale.

MUM continues to lead on sustainability

Maharishi University of Management is a committed leader in sustainability. The university pioneered the first degree program in sustainable living in the United States, has built low-carbon footprint buildings, implemented composting and recycling programs, and committed to switching a significant portion of its energy use to renewable sources. Past and present MUM presidents, Drs. Bevan Morris and John Hagelin have supported and signed the University President Climate Initiative and Paris Climate Initiative with the intention of moving MUM to become a carbon-neutral campus.

The new solar array, two existing solar arrays, and a wind turbine on campus, along with the wind portfolio of MUM’s utility, will generate over 43% of MUM’s electricity –a transformative leap toward achieving carbon neutrality.

The array, which will be visible from the railroad segment of the Fairfield Loop Trail running from 8th St. and Gear Ave. over Highway 1, will be a dramatic view of Fairfield’s clean energy future.

-END-

Contact:

Amy Van Beek
Ideal Energy, Inc.
(641) 209-3288

Governor Reynolds & Lt. Governor Gregg Visit Fairfield for Solar Energy Tour

-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-

Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg visited Ideal Energy Solar today to tour operations and learn about the job creation and positive economic impact solar energy provides to the state of Iowa. There are more than 700 people employed in the solar industry in Iowa, up 14 percent from 2015. Solar energy is installed in at least 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties, providing economic impact all across the state.

During the visit, the Governor and Lt. Governor spoke with Ideal Energy founder and former US Navy SEAL Troy Van Beek about Iowa’s leadership role in the nation’s growing clean energy economy. Iowa is at the forefront of utility-scale wind projects and in recent years has seen explosive growth in solar installations among utilities, businesses and homeowners.

“It’s wonderful to visit companies like Ideal Energy Solar to see the direct employee investment firsthand and to see how they help other businesses innovate with energy,” Governor Kim Reynolds said. “I just visited a manufacturer in Pilot Grove last week that powers its facility 100 percent by a solar field installed by Ideal Energy. Renewable energy benefits all Iowans through low electricity rates and job creation and helps companies generate savings to invest back into their operations.”

Governor Reynolds and Lt. Governor Gregg also toured a local solar installation at Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing (SVM) in Fairfield. The half-megawatt solar field sits on a previously contaminated EPA cleanup site and produces revenue for SVM through avoided energy costs. Completed in the winter of 2016, the solar field is one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in Iowa and has helped transform the business.

In addition, leaders from businesses that have invested in solar installations were in attendance to showcase how the savings from their solar energy investment allows them to reinvest in their employees and the customers they serve. Jennifer Steffensmeier, President of Steffensmeier Welding and Manufacturing, and Mary Sundblad, Owner of Stuff, Etc., discussed how their companies have invested in solar projects at their respective businesses and now see substantial savings that enable them to put the savings to work by hiring more employees and investing in training, equipment, and expansion.

“Renewable energy has proven it creates jobs and supports our Iowa communities,” said Troy Van Beek, Founder and CEO of Ideal Energy Solar. “Small business is the backbone of the economy. Solar energy supports 30 jobs at our company alone, and also has a trickle-down economic impact throughout the supply chain and other industries in Iowa.”

The solar representatives shared with Governor Reynolds how good public policy plays an important role in the development of renewable energy. Examples of policy discussed include the tax credit programs, the federal Suniva trade case and energy innovation for battery storage and new technologies.

Media Contact:

Amy Van Beek
[email protected]
641-209-3288

END

Sen. Joni Ernst visits Ideal Energy to discuss Iowa’s leadership role in solar energy

-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-

Sen. Joni Ernst visits Ideal Energy to discuss Iowa’s leadership role in solar energy
FAIRFIELD, Iowa, August 23rd, 2017 – Senator Joni Ernst made a stop in Fairfield, Iowa, on Thursday, August 17th to visit Ideal Energy, Inc. and tour one of the largest solar arrays in the state.

During her visit the senator spoke with Ideal Energy founder and former US Navy SEAL Troy Van Beek about Iowa’s leadership role in the nation’s growing clean energy economy. Iowa is at the forefront of utility-scale wind projects and in recent years has seen explosive growth in solar installations among utilities, businesses, and homeowners.

Senator Ernst also toured Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing’s half megawatt solar field, which provides 100% of the business’s energy needs and puts a formerly contaminated EPA cleanup site to productive use. The solar field was designed and built by Ideal Energy and is one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in Iowa.

“Iowa is leading the Midwest’s clean energy economy because of strong leadership from our politicians, businesses, homeowners, and utilities,” says Van Beek. “There is still a lot to do to prepare for the future – and we want to remain on the forefront. I want to see Iowa as a net exporter of clean energy, with 100% or more of our energy production coming from renewables.”

At the end of 2016, 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties had installed solar projects benefitting from Iowa’s solar tax credit, and the state had more distributed solar installed than neighboring Midwest states with a total of 41.8 megawatts. Van Beek encouraged Senator Ernst to continue supporting both distributed generation and utility-scale renewable energy projects in the state.

Media Contact:

Amy Van Beek
Ideal Energy, Inc.
(641) 209-3288

END

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