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Hoosier inventor Jim Straeter speaks up for solar

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 07, 2017  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments

Hoosier inventor speaks up for solar

Mike Straeter of Ag Technologies Inc. explains how to use SolarCAM, invented by his father, Jim Straeter. "It's easy to loosen this up without getting wrenches out or anything." Mike said. The panels can be raised or lowered with a crank system.

Hoosier inventor speaks up for solar

Gov. subsidy will start declining at end of 2019

  • By Katie Stancombe CNHI News Indiana

Rochester inventor Jim Straeter has his eyes set on improving the solar industry’s energy efficiency and economic value.

At a young age, he kindled a passion for two things: farm equipment and renewable energy.

“My dad was a farm equipment dealer,” Straeter said. “He was always interested in better farming practices, so that’s probably where it started.”

Straeter now owns seven New Holland Agriculture dealerships in north-central Indiana. He started Ag Technologies Inc. in 2012, which specializes in farm equipment technology. Ag Technologies introduced SolarCAM, a patented system that enables solar panels to adjust positions easily according to seasons for better sun access.

When Straeter tested the product with his customers, the results blew him away.

“We’re having an excellent year with solar,” he said. “The size of our installments has continued to increase over the five years we’ve been at it.

At first, Ag Technologies installed 32 to 64 solar panels per customer. Straeter said that number now reaches up to 4,000 for his largest customers.

The company started out with two customers, whose combined systems totaled 25 kilowatts of energy production. Five years later, Straeter’s company has 124 customers and is on track to hit 3,000 kilowatt hours in 2017. And the orders are still coming in.

Why solar?

“It’s the only renewable energy technology that pays for itself,” Straeter said. “The energy you use is going to be priced by someone else, and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Investors in solar can benefit from net metering, which calculates the amount of money that can be credited back to a consumer’s electric bill for the extra energy they produce on the grid.

Solar power is subsidized by the U.S. government with a 30 percent investment tax credit that will start declining at the end of 2019. But, according to Straeter, solar is viable enough that it can easily survive without that tax credit.


Hoosier inventor speaks up for solar
Katie Stancombe/CNHI News IndianaTouch: Mike Straeter traces the process of how solar panels generate energy. In the United States, electricity powered by renewable energy sources accounts for 15 percent of total electricity generated. Solar comprises barely one percent of that.

“So you can imagine,” he added, “that right now it’s really a good deal.”

That’s what convinced Stan Musgrave, 75, to invest in solar power for his Rochester home almost four years ago.

“The first three years are really great on the taxes,” Musgrave said. “Economically, I think it makes sense in the long run.”

His unit of 64 solar panels cost $47,000. Musgrave said it would take him just 12 years to pay it off. The benefits, he said, have already started to show.

“I have almost a total electric house,” Musgrave said. “We have an electric bill probably December through March. The rest of the time is billing with credit.”

Like Musgrave, many solar investors benefit from net metering,

“It’s pure economics,” Straeter said. “They can put it in and get their money back in seven or eight years. The system is warranted for 25 years and will probably last 40. That’s 22 years of free electricity.”

Renewables come at a cost

Though Straeter has seen increased interest in solar from his customers, overall renewable energy usage is still relatively low.

In 2016, 15 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. came from renewables; the rest consisted of traditional fossil fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that less than one percent of that total was solar generated.

Indiana’s solar output contributes even less, at 0.2 percent of all energy produced in 2015.

“I think solar growth is substantial enough to say that the general trend is positive, but it’s a small fish in a very big pond,” Straeter observed. “What has to happen is policy change in order to achieve substantial growth. Unfortunately, in Indiana it’s going the other direction.”

The governor signed a controversial solar bill into law this year that will reduce the amount of money credited back to solar investors for extra energy generated. Hoosiers who currently use net metering will be grandfathered in for 30 years. Those who install solar units in the next five years will be grandfathered at a full retail price until 2032.

Solar generators now receive from 11 to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for extra energy they produce. After 2022, that will fall to roughly 4 cents.

Another concern, Straeter said, is that the renewable energy industry sometimes over-promises what its equipment can do.

“Don’t believe the computer models or the brochure or anything. Make sure you look at an actual system that’s doing what the vendor said it’s supposed to do,” he warned. “And if they can’t take you to a system that’s doing exactly what they say it’s supposed to do, then run.”

To prove his company is legitimate, Straeter installed a solar unit at the New Holland Rochester dealership so he can personally show customers how it works.

Straeter isn’t worried about the challenges facing the renewable energy industry. He plans to keep doing business as usual.

“With the tilting stand that we’ve patented, the efficiency is better than any fixture out there,” he said of his company’s solar panels. “I think we’re going to be fine.”

Contact Katie Stancombe at 765-648-4258 or at


Hoosier inventor speaks up for solar 

Stan Musgrave of Rochester surveys his solar panel system, which was installed almost four years ago. He said he is already enjoying a return on his investment.

Massachusetts seeking bids for largest renewable energy contract in New England history

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 03, 2017  /   Posted in solar, wind  /   No Comments

Massachusetts is now reviewing proposals to bring clean energy to the state.

Massachusetts is now reviewing proposals to bring clean energy to the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is seeking project bids worldwide to provide up to 1,200 megawatts of energy.

The governor is taking proposals from water, wind, and solar power companies, with local businesses looking to grab the largest renewable energy contract in New England history.

Other proposals from energy companies come from near and far, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Vermont, Maine, Indianapolis, Canada and even the United Kingdom. [emphasis added]

One familiar company is making a run for the contract: Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind. They’re known for their first off-shore wind farm in the United States, right off Block Island.

Deepwater Wind shared their proposal with NBC 10 News on Tuesday.

“What we've proposed is the largest wind-battery combined power in the world,” CEO Jeff Grybowski said.

Grybowski plans to add 18 to 24 wind turbines about 20 miles off the coast of New Bedford -- and they're planning on to partner with an industry power-player: Tesla

Tesla's new battery technology will store wind farm energy. The company's founder, Elon Musk, recently visited Rhode Island

“So, it really helps us maximize the value of all that wind power,” said Grybowski.

The wind-farm energy could power about 80,000 Massachusetts households every year.

“But again, this a price competition,” said Grybowski.

The project, if approved, would be ready by 2023 to 2024.

NBC 10 asked Grybowski how many years it would take to bring the cost down for residents because of the initial investment.

“I think from day one, we think this will be a price-competitive project,” said Grybowski.

He also said it's likely the wind-turbines won't be seen from shore.

Deepwater Wind is hoping their off-shore wind farm will be a part of that mix for years to come.

It's also unlikely any of the project bids will be subsidized.


Mayor Hamilton: Update on Solarize Bloomington

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 01, 2017  /   Posted in 2017 Indiana General Assembly, Duke Energy, Net Metering, solar  /   No Comments

john hamilton

Update on Solarize Bloomington

[IndianaDG Note: These are the remarks of Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton from 7/31/17 on the Solarize Bloomington efforts. His speech provides more details than my earlier post.]

About three weeks ago, an iceberg the size of the State of Delaware broke off from Antarctica. The New York Times referred to this collapse of the ice shelf as a “canary in the coal mine” for climate change. Frighteningly, the rupture of this iceberg follows a trend and scientists fear that the next one may have dramatic, devastating impacts on sea levels. In January of 2016 NASA and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] issued a joint statement, reporting that 2005 to 2015 had been the hottest years on record. And then 2016 topped 2015. I share this, not to scare you, but to remind everyone that regardless of what the President or Congress or our State House choose to believe -- climate change is real.  And I’ll note that more than 360 US Climate Mayors, representing more than 65 million Americans, including yours truly, have committed to support the Paris Climate Accord. That number is growing every week. For those of us committed to doing what we can, where we can to protect our planet -- the time to act is now.

Today, I’m proud to announce aggressive measures that the City of Bloomington will be taking over the next six months to expand our solar footprint, and to encourage others to follow suit. The people and institutions of our city spent ten years installing ONE megawatt of solar power. I’m challenging the city to add FIVE megawatts of power by the end of this year, and I’m asking the public to generate another 1 megawatt.

The timing of this is especially important in Indiana because of some recent distressing action taken by our state legislators and signed by our governor. Senate Bill 309, which went into effect on July 1st, drastically limited net metering and removed a major incentive for folks to take up solar energy. “Net metering” allows solar homes to sell their excess electricity back to the grid for their neighbors to use, and to earn retail rates as credit. Bill 309 cut those incentives to produce local power with renewable sources.

But under the bill, folks have until December 31st to get the current, better deal locked in place for 30 years. After that, incentives and the economic value of solar decreases. With the dangers posed by climate change, our state must do everything it can to encourage people to take up renewable, distributed energy. I strongly urge Governor Holcomb and our representatives at the State House to reconsider this misguided bill. In the meantime, we need to act, and we have and we will.

In January this year we kicked off the Solarize Bloomington initiative, reaching out to Monroe County residents to encourage them to consider rooftop solar, and offering training and even more importantly, wholesale prices on solar panels, in connection with the city’s acquisition program. Over 400 city and county residents expressed interest, which led to nearly 100 signed contracts and installed solar systems to date.  [Dawn and I are one of them -- show the app on phone, monitoring current production]. Thus far over 600 kilowatts of solar energy have been installed. Right now, we as a community are half way to generating 1 megawatt of energy. It took our city as a whole 10 years to get that point. We should be proud of that.

In order to acquire as much solar as possible prior to the December 31 deadline, then, Phase Two of Solarize Bloomington is now in progress, reaching out to surrounding counties. So far 140 households have expressed interest, and over 100 have attended the first two of six planned information sessions. You’ll hear more about that from SIREN in a few minutes. With the December 31st deadline imposed by the state, we are in a race to solarize Bloomington.

So, Solarize Bloomington is one major step toward expanding our solar footprint. But there is of course much more work to be done to protect our planet. In city government I’ve directed that we take a responsible and proactive approach to evaluating opportunities to reduce costs, become more efficient, and modernize our infrastructure. Earlier this year, after a competitive bid process, we selected Energy Systems Group (ESG), an Indiana-based energy services company to implement an array of energy saving measures throughout the city.  The ESG team has been working closely with the Mayor’s Office, Economic & Sustainable Development, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and the City of Bloomington Utilities to complete a comprehensive strategic energy master plan and develop a solar plan on behalf of the city for the Solarize Bloomington initiative. Greg Collins ESG president, thanks for being here today.

We will be working on all these issues in the months ahead and well into 2018. But when it comes to solar itself, the City is just like a resident. We have until December 31st to be locked into those better rates. That deadline gives us a challenge: how much solar can we install in the next 5 months? That’s why I’m challenging City Hall to add 5 megawatts of power in city government over the next five months.

Together with ESG the City has developed an accelerated solar PV initiative to install solar PV at as many as 29 City buildings and locations by the end of 2017, and both ESG and the City look forward to collaborating with Duke Energy to ensure successful implementation and completion of the solar installations by the December 31st deadline put forth by SB309. The estimated approximately $15 million investment includes the costs of both PV installation and roof preparation. The funding for this project will be facilitated by a guaranteed energy savings performance contract implemented and funded by ESG, which alleviates the need for up-front city capital and dedicates payment for the new systems through realized, on-the-ground energy cost savings.

Building on our successful Solarize Bloomington initiative, this solar photovoltaic project will further reduce the City’s carbon footprint and promote clean, renewable energy use in our community. As we’re challenging our city government to do this, I’m also challenging all Bloomingtonians to do what you can do to reach 1 megawatt of production from residential users.

So…. based on the goals that our city/ESG projects will total about 5MW, and that residential production will grow 1MW this year, we'll dramatically increase the amount of solar capacity in the county.  A year ago, we were at about 1MW in the county. Our projections, with the extra efforts over the next five months, show we have the ability to hit over 8MW of capacity by the end of this year.  It took almost 10 years to build the first MW, and just over a year to build the next 7MW.  That’s fantastic and important progress. IF we do our parts.

The city’s additional 5MW, will mean over 9% of all City energy consumption and 14% of our electric production will be from solar.  Once all the efficiency projects ESG is also working on are put into place, the percentage will likely be higher.

As I said in early June when I signed on to the Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda, Bloomington is joining efforts around the country and around the globe against climate change. We are a proactive and productive community.

We will continue to enhance efficiency in our facilities and reduce our carbon footprint with additional solar panels and an extensive energy guaranteed savings program. I encourage residents to continue doing the same through participation in programs like the Monroe County Energy Challenge, installation of residential solar panels, implementing higher efficiency City sanitation services, and other ongoing measures that will reduce the community’s environmental footprint, improve community health, and keep more money in the local economy. And JOBS, remember, this impact….

I started this speech with a warning,  that there will be consequences for inaction. We’ve seen that in the warming temperatures, the cracking ice shelf, and the violent storms and hurricanes.  What many of us will not see, is all of the things that come as a result of climate change. Political instability, food insecurity, mass migration, every fact of life will be impacted by our planet’s warming. That will be the world of our children and grandchildren if we fail to act.

It’s not impossible to imagine a Bloomington that runs entirely on clean, distributed, renewable power. And that’s what we should strive for.

Now I’d like to ask a couple of other people to share their views as well. Bruce Calloway, Manager of Government and Community Relations for Duke Energy, will comment on their efforts and interest in the projects going on in town.  And Woodie Bessler of SIREN (Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network), will outline opportunities for local residents to bring solar home. Thank you, Bruce and Woodie.

Thank you for joining us today in support of our city, our country, and our climate.

Solarize Hamilton County (IN) Upcoming Solar Workshops

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 01, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Carmel Green Initiative logoSOLARIZE HAMILTON COUNTY

Solar Workshop Series

The price of solar has been coming down, and we've been looking for ways to help you get a good deal.  The Solarize Hamilton County campaign leverages the best possible pricing on residential and commercial solar. Join us to learn the basics about solar, how net metering affects return on investment, how to select a solar installer, and how the group discount for the campaign works.  Also for the campaign, Carmel Green Initiative is offering a $250 incentive rebate to the first 10 Carmel residents to install solar panels this year.  You do NOT have to live in Hamilton county to attend this FREE program.

-    Thurs. Aug 3, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.  Fishers City Hall   RSVP

-    Wed. Aug 16, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.  Carmel Clay Public LibraryRSVP

-    Wed. Aug 23, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.  Noblesville City Hall  RSVP

-    Tues. Aug 29, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Westfield Washington Public Library RSVP

Do you know anyone that might be interested in solar? Please help us spread the word about this great opportunity!

Download flyer below and click here to learn more.

Go Solar Workshops - August 2017

Bloomington (IN) Hopes to Increase Solar Capacity by 5 MW

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 01, 2017  /   Posted in Net Metering, solar  /   No Comments

 Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

City Aggressively Pursues Solar Energy With Solarize Bloomington Phase Two

Updated August 1, 2017 7:04 AM

(BLOOMINGTON) - On Monday, Bloomington Mayor Hamilton launched the City's most ambitious solar measures to date as he challenged the City to increase its solar capacity by five megawatts and encouraged the public with a one megawatt goal.

"Today, I'm proud to announce aggressive measures that the City of Bloomington will be taking over the next five months to expand our solar footprint, and to encourage others to follow suit," Mayor Hamilton stated. "The people and institutions of our city spent ten years installing one megawatt of solar power. I'm challenging our city to add five megawatts of power by the end of this year, and I'm asking the public to generate one more megawatt."

The addition of five megawatts would increase the City's solar capacity by sevenfold to produce 14% of the government's electricity use and over 9% of the City's overall energy consumption, numbers that will likely increase upon the completion of efficiency projects currently underway.

The mayor addressed Senate Bill 309, a bill that removed a major incentive to going solar by drastically limiting net metering, which allows solar homes to sell their excess electricity back to the grid for their neighbors to use, and to earn retail rates as credit. Signed on July 1, the bill grandfathers in solar systems existing as of December 31, 2017 so that owners continue to receive the same incentives and economic value for 30 years. "With the December 31st deadline imposed by the state, we are in a race to solarize Bloomington," the mayor stated. "The City is just like a resident. We have until December 31st to be locked into those better rates, which gives us a challenge: how much solar can we install in the next 5 months?" The mayor directed City government to pursue 5 megawatts in new capacity at 29 buildings and locations.

Beyond all the solar installations on City facilities, the mayor also encourages households to do more. In order to acquire as much solar as possible prior to the December 31 deadline, Phase Two of Solarize Bloomington reaches out to residents in the whole region. To date in Phase Two, 140 households have expressed interest in the project, and over 100 residents have attended the first two informational sessions.

The City launched the initial phase of Solarize Bloomington in January by reaching out to encourage Monroe County residents to consider rooftop solar. The City offered training and wholesale pricing on solar panels as part of its acquisition program, and nearly 100 households installed solar systems thanks to Phase One initiatives. "Thus far, over 600 kilowatts of solar energy have been installed. I'm hoping that we can grow that to 1 megawatt by the end of the year," the mayor said.

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