Tag Archives: Midwest Energy News

Iowa solar installer using storage to help customers avoid costly demand charges

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

In Iowa, a state with some of the highest demand charges in the nation, a solar installer is offering a storage solution that the company claims could cut power bills in half for some large electricity customers. One year ago the company, Ideal Energy, installed its first solar-plus-storage system at Stuff Etc., a large consignment store in Coralville. Amy Van Beek, the company’s co-founder and its chief marketing officer, said the project has been performing well and the company is now working with several large electricity customers in the state to determine how solar-plus-storage could work for them. Continue reading.

Photo: An Iowa solar company installed battery storage at this consignment store near Iowa City to help avoid high demand charges. Credit: Ideal Energy



New connection technology is cutting cost of solar installation

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

ConnectDER, as it’s known, generally eliminates the need to enter a home and it greatly reduces the amount of electrical work required. “It allows you to inject the solar on the customer side of the meter prior to getting into the home,” said Michael Shonka, a solar installer who has put the new equipment in a half-dozen homes in the Omaha area.  “This means we can cut out $1,000 to $2,000 worth of cost in the system because you don’t need electricians to go through foundations trying to get to the service panel, and you don’t need to rearrange the panel.” Read more here.

Photo: The ConnectDER device allows a solar array to be connected directly to the meter, eliminating the need for electrical work inside the home.

Midwestern poultry farmers cut bills in half with new heating system: Maintaining a tropical temperature for his turkeys, even through a Nebraska winter, used to cost Bill Bevans in the neighborhood of $60,000 annually. Not any longer.

Q&A: Michigan economist discusses the market forces pushing electric vehicles, clean energy

Written by Andy Balaskovitz, Midwest Energy News

After serving 18 years as chief global economist at Ford Motor Co. and then as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama ,Ellen Hughes-Cromwick brings a market-driven perspective to the way energy use and transportation could mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In late July, Hughes-Cromwick started as senior economist at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, where she will help lead research on this “intersection of energy, economics, policy, and human behavior.”

Click here to read Midwest Energy News’ interview with Hughes-Cromwick.

New investment vehicle could bring “patient capital” to wind and solar

By Christian Roselund, PV Magazine

Non-profit CPI says that by removing barriers to direct investment in wind and solar assets, its new vehicle could lower the cost of these projects 15-17%, while attracting $4 trillion from pension funds and insurance companies.

This week London-based Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, released a design for a new investment vehicle to attract this “patient capital” to renewable energy. The Clean Energy Investment Trust (CEIT) would be an investment-grade vehicle to hedge long-term liabilities, while offering a higher return than bonds and requiring lower management fees than most asset managers. Click here to read more.

Photo: Public Domain – Hybrid, solar and wind, project.


Minnesota health advocates praise increased social cost of carbon
By Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) decision, passed 3-2, raises the cost of carbon to a range of $9.05 to $43.06 per short ton, from 44 cents to $4.53. It was the first update to the state’s cost of carbon in 20 years . . . It’s a good start,” Bruce D. Snyder, a member of Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, said of Minnesota regulators’ action. “It really levels the playing field for regulators when they’re looking at the renewable energy facilities versus fossil fuel facilities.” Read the entire article here.

Photo: Xcel Energy’s Sherco coal plant in Minnesota. Credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

To solve ‘duck curve,’ Missouri utility to pay bonus for west-facing solar panels

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

In an effort to better align solar-energy production with peak demand, the electric utility in Columbia, Missouri has begun to pay higher rebates for new west-facing arrays than it will for those facing south.

The city-owned utility adjusted its rebates as of Aug. 1 in order to encourage more solar production in late afternoon, when electricity use tends to peak, especially during the high-demand summer months. Continue reading.

Photo by John S. Quarterman / Creative Commons

Lincoln Electric System provides customers incentives that are based on the solar system’s orientation and its energy-generating capacity, as described in the PDF, Customer-owned Renewable Generation. These LES customer rebates are called “capacity payments” and are determined as follows::

South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity. The savings in the following examples would be:
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,125
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,500
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,875

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,425
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $2,375

For more information, visit LES.com, and select Savings & Energy > Solar & customer-owned generation or call LES Energy Services Specialist Jay Stoa at 402-475-4211.
Email: jstoa@les.com

How much does a solar electric system cost in Nebraska?

Madison navigates partnership with utility as it pursues 100 percent clean energy goal

By Kari Lydersen, Midwest Energy News

On March 21, Madison’s city council signed a resolution committing the city to power 100 percent of its operations with clean energy. The resolution was especially notable since the utility serving Madison gets almost half of its power from coal, and several years ago was among Wisconsin utilities making national headlines for policies seen as hostile to distributed solar energy. But now the utility, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), city officials and clean energy leaders are negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding that lays out plans for the expansion of solar, the spread of electric vehicles and other clean energy improvements. And the utility has pledged its support for the city’s clean energy goal. Continue reading here.

Photo Credit: Jordan Richmond / Creative Commons 

OPPD. Facebook collaboration opens opportunities for public power: Burke

By Paul Ciampoli, News Director, Public Power Daily
American Public Power Association Blog

The Omaha Public Power District’s collaboration with Facebook, which resulted in the social media giant deciding to build a new data center in Nebraska, offers an example of how Facebook can work with public power to create economic development and value throughout the country, said OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke. “What Facebook has said is that typically they never really thought about public power as a solution because they didn’t think” public power would be “agile or creative enough,” Burke said at the American Public Power Association’s national conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 20. OPPD has helped to “knock down that barrier with them about how they can really engage public power to create economic development and value throughout the United States,” Burke said. Continue reading.

Image: A rendering of Facebook’s planned data center south of Papillion. Credit: Facebook


Q&A: How rural co-ops can help lead the smart grid transition

 Written by David J. Unger, Midwest Energy News

Rural electric cooperatives spread across the U.S. in the 1930s to electrify parts of the country where as many as nine out of ten rural homes lacked electricity. Today, many of those co-ops are building on that legacy by deploying an advanced, 21st-century version of the electricity distribution systems they brought to farms decades ago. In some cases, rural America is seeing the smart grid arrive at their doorstep well before their urban and suburban counterparts. As the newly elected, two-year-term president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Phil Carson has a bird’s-eye view of grid modernization efforts underway in rural America. Continue reading.

Phil Carson, director of the Tri-County Electric Co-op in Illinois, is the new president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

AWEA’s 9th annual report released today: Midwest and Great Plains lead wind energy expansion

 Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News 

Looking at the Midwest and Great Plains region, the report offered the following insights:

  • Five states are in the top 10 for wind power capacity: Iowa (2nd), Oklahoma (3rd), Kansas (5th), Illinois (6th), Minnesota (7th).
  • The top 10 states for installing wind in 2016 were nearly all in the region, among them Oklahoma (2nd), Iowa (3rd), Kansas (4th), North Dakota (5th), Nebraska (6th), Minnesota (7th), Missouri (9th) and Illinois (10th).
  • Six of the top 10 states for the wind share of electricity generation were in the region, with Minnesota at 17.7 percent.
  • Despite the strong showing by the region Texas remains the undisputed king of wind energy, having installed 10,000 MW in just the past five years.
    Read the entire article here.

Photo: Wind turbines dot the landscape near Odell in Gage County. Credit: Jenna Vonhoff, Lincoln Journal Star

The American Wind Energy Association’s 2016 annual report is free to members. Non-members can access free fact sheets here, including:

Midwest states seek to cut time, costs for solar connections

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

States across the Midwest are updating their interconnection rules for solar customers, a process likely to cut the time and money required to establish a connection to the grid. In addition, the new standards will equip utilities to efficiently process solar applications as their numbers likely escalate in coming years, according to an attorney who worked on revisions recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. Updated and improved interconnection standards are “a critical part of moving distributed generation ahead.. And having clear, fair and efficient interconnection rules is critical to enabling a healthy distributed generation market,” said Sky Stanfield, an attorney who was involved in negotiating the new standards.
Continue reading.

Photo by plien / Creative Commons


In March Green Bellevue presented the workshop, “Solar Powering Your Home,” co-sponsored by the Green Omaha Coalition and Nebraskans for Solar. If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube here.

Updated Information: Regarding the discussion toward the end of the video about interconnection, OPPD is offering solar installers and code inspectors training on this process. Undoubtedly, this will make it more streamlined and customer-friendly, and OPPD is to be commended for taking this step.