Iowa Investigates Solar And Storage

Rendering of the future solar-plus-storage project at Maharishi University of Mangement

A new research grant aims to further the growth of solar energy and battery storage in Iowa, which the Solar Energy Industries Association ranks 37th in the nation for solar capacity.

The Fairfield (Iowa) Economic Development Association (FEDA) has facilitated a $200,000 research grant for Ideal Energy, a local solar company based in Fairfield. The grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) will be used to evaluate the performance of the first large-scale solar-plus-battery installations in the state, says FEDA.

Designed and built by Ideal Energy, two installations will be located in Fairfield at Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. (AIP) and Maharishi University of Management (MUM).

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, operations 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 Electric Power Research Center is also partnering on the project.

A state-level battery energy storage committee – formed in follow-up to the state’s Iowa Energy Plan, released in December 2016 – will evaluate the findings of the research project and consider how to best apply lessons learned throughout Iowa.

The installation at AIP will consist of a 517 kW solar array with a lithium-ion battery energy storage system. AIP operates 27 production lines, 24 hours a day, calling for intensified energy needs. The battery 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.

MUM is installing a 1.1 MW solar array with a 1.1 MWh battery energy storage system. The project will bring MUM’s renewable energy share to nearly 40% and significantly reduce the university’s utility bills. The installation will use an active tracking technology allowing the solar panels to follow the sun’s movement across the sky, yielding up to 25% more energy than a fixed-tilt array, according to FEDA’s estimates. 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.

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

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