Green Energy Ohio brings solar business workshop to ToledoWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The state’s solar industry leaders came to Toledo for Ohio’s first ever seminar on large scale and community solar energy projects held at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion on March 27.
Ohio’s Big Solar Business Workshop was an in-depth seminar discussing Ohio’s largest solar arrays and the emerging issue of community solar projects. The content and participants in the workshop certainly had a Northwest Ohio flavor.
“Welcome to Toledo. We’re so glad you’re here,” said Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak to the audience most of which she soon discovered came from outside Lucas County. She mentioned that the county was investigating the use of solar energy at some of its facilities.
Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio and editor of its magazine, also welcomed attendees at the workshop. The winter edition of Green Energy Ohio magazine featured several articles about the workshop and solar projects included in its first list of the 25 Largest Solar Photovoltaic Arrays.
Green Energy Ohio presented Ohio’s Big Solar Business Workshop that was supported by the First Solar Corporate Charitable Fund of the Toledo Community Foundation. Other sponsors included SoCore Energy, Dovetail Solar and Wind, McNauhgton-McKay Electric Company, Solar Power and Light, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and Wright Center for Photovoltaics at the University of Toledo.
“I believe in the future of solar energy. We have to start selling the value of solar because the benefits outweigh the costs,” said keynote speaker Pete Kadens, co-founder and president of SoCore Energy in Chicago, who recently sold his company to energy holding company Edison International.
“We have to find the right way to partner with utilities because we can’t win without them,” he said.
Kadens grew up in the Toledo area and is a 1996 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School. His wife is also from Toledo but they are raising their family in the Chicago area now.
His company has an office in Maumee and has done a number of commercial solar installations. It was involved in installing solar power on the rooftops of Walgreen’s drug stores, including 53 stores in Ohio and some in Toledo. It is now installing rooftop solar arrays on Target stores around the country.
Kaden cited the example of First Solar partnering with Apple to design and install a solar installation that the computer giant will share with the University of California.
As the venue for the event, the Toledo Museum of Art was an excellent example of green energy having achieved a milestone in its 20-year effort to reduce energy consumption.
On May 21, 2013, the museum’s 101-year old main building stopped drawing power from the electrical grid and started returning power to the system thanks to its solar arrays and micro turbines generating power.
The addition of a 360-kilowatt (kW) solar canopy installed over a large portion of its main parking lot joined the existing 200 kW solar array on the roof of the main building. On sunny days, the electrical demand for the 250,000 square-foot building is provided by solar energy during its operating hours and peak energy usage.
Chief Operating Officer Carol Bintz and Paul Bernard, director of the museum’s physical plant, spoke about how the museum made changes over that 20-year period with a limited budget at the Green Energy Ohio workshop.
“It takes a variety of ideas and a willingness to take risks to embrace and incorporate these technologies. Our belief in this from the very beginning has paid off significantly, as our efforts have reduced the electrical usage in the main building by 90 percent,” said Bintz.
The museum’s most recent energy saving project involved a yearlong effort to convert the lighting in all galleries to LED bulbs. The new LED lighting not only brought out the spectacular colors of the rare paintings and prints, but offered ultraviolet protection and generated no damaging heat.
The Toledo Museum of Art is the only museum in Ohio, and one of only a handful in the nation, to install four micro turbines in 2003 originally cutting its grid power consumption by 22 percent.
Bintz and Bernard accepted an award recognizing the museum’s green energy efforts from two companies that helped achieve those goals, GEM Energy of Walbridge and Capstone Turbine Corp. which supplied the micro turbines.
John Witte, president of Advanced Distributed Generation in Maumee, discussed the subject of installing large commercial solar in Ohio at the workshop. His firm was one of the first to install commercial solar in the Toledo area.
Witte explained that firms must learn to use solar technology with the utilities so it contributes to the base-line requirements during peak power demand. It can be done using low-cost, reliant almost maintenance-free, thin-film technology developed at the University of Toledo, he said.
Witte started the firm as a college senior at UT where it operated from the alternative energy incubator for several years. His company later helped install the solar array at UT’s Scott Park Campus where it provides all the electricity used there.
Spratley pointed out that Witte was involved in establishing the photovoltaic installer training program that has been offered at Owens Community College since 2001.
Todd Williams, a partner in the Williams Allwein & Moser law firm in Toledo, moderated a panel that discussed siting and financing issues of large scale solar in Ohio.
Matt Longthorne, co-founder and managing member of Solscient in Toledo, served on the panel and related how their company has overcome many of those issues as a solar project developer.
Solscient was the prime developer of the 3-phase rooftop solar project for the GM Powertrain plant in Toledo that was financed by the Port Authority. It later installed a large solar array at GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
Another panel, moderated by Dovetail Solar and Wind president Al Frasz, addressed the policy issues facing large scale solar in Ohio. Based in Cleveland, Dovetail has installed numerous commercial arrays in the state.
“There are a lot of policymakers in Columbus who just don’t get it when it comes to renewable energy. There are some who want to stop clean energy advancement in Ohio,” said Terrence O’Donnell of the Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus.
“The good news is the market moves ahead no matter what the policy is,” said O’Donnell who called local Senator Randy Gardner, “a great champion of renewable energy.”
“Solar is going to grow but what will happen in Ohio is uncertain,” said Jay Troger, CEO of Nextronex of Holland, Ohio, referring to the policy issues.
“Investors around the country are putting their money in other states with the policy situation in Ohio,” Frasz said.
The Ohio Senate has asked for further study on proposed legislation that could hinder further solar development in the state. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will hold a workshop on the matter for interested parties May 5 in Columbus.
Jim Eckert, director of global real estate solutions at Owens Corning, explained the company’s undertaking the installation of 2.4 MW solar canopy in its parking lot in downtown Toledo.
Two speakers traveled from neighboring states to speak at the solar workshop in Toledo.
John Sarver, president of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, came from East Lansing, Michigan to discuss the recent growth in popularity of community solar projects in that state.
Jeffrey Brownson, associate professor of energy at Penn State University, came from State College to discuss the development of community solar energy in that state.
The workshop included an afternoon tour of the Glass Pavilion artwork where it was held and green museum tour of the solar rays and micro turbines. An electric vehicle showcase was provided by the Electric Auto Association of Northwest Ohio.
NW Ohio leads GEO’s Top 25 Solar Arrays
Northwest Ohio led Green Energy Ohio’s list of the 25 largest solar arrays in the state with the top six and 13 of the top 25 projects. The list was published in the winter 2015 edition of Green Energy Ohio magazine which was devoted entirely to “Ohio’s Big Solar Business.”
The 12-megawatt (MW) Wyandot Solar Farm in Wyandot County is the largest, followed by the BNB Napoleon Solar at the Campbell Soup Company in Napoleon, Celina Solar Project in Celina, AMP Napoleon Solar facility at Isofoton in Napoleon, Wapakoneta Solar Array and First Solar.
First Solar’s 2.42 MW rooftop solar installation is the sixth largest solar photovoltaic array in the state of Ohio, according to Green Energy Ohio magazine. First Solar also provided the solar panels for six of the top 25 in Ohio on GEO’s list.
Steve Krum, director of corporate communications at First Solar, contributed an article about the local company that started out as research at the University of Toledo in 1991 and grew into what has become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of photovoltaic thin-film solar modules.
The Anthony Wayne Solar array for the Toledo Zoo ranked 11th, Village of Carey 13th, Oak Harbor 14th, Toledo Air National Guard Base 18th and the University of Toledo Scott Park Campus, 20th on Ohio’s top 25 list.
Today, Ohio has more than 116 MW of installed photovoltaic solar arrays with over half that among coming from the top 25 largest solar installations in the state featured in GEO’s winter edition.
Another company that was founded in Toledo, Nextronex, provided the solar inverters for seven of the top 25 solar projects in the state. Those projects included the AMP Napoleon Solar facility, Wapakoneta Solar Array, Anthony Wayne Solar for Toledo Zoo, Bryan Municipal Utilities Solar, Oak Harbor Solar Array, Toledo Air National Guard Base, and West Jefferson Schools in Madison County.
Jay Troger, CEO of Nextronex, pointed out that the company uses a supply chain of 13 other manufacturers in Ohio for the production of its solar inverters used in so many area projects. His article about the role of Ohio-made Nextronex inverters played in the state’s largest solar installations was published by GEO magazine.
GEM Energy, a Rudolph-Libbe company from Northwest Ohio, was the installer for three of the top 25, while Romanoff Electric Company of Toledo installed two and Advanced Distribution Generation LLC of Maumee, one.
John Witte, president of Advanced Distributed Generation, was a member of the GEO board of directors from 2001 to 2009. He also authored an article about that subject in the winter edition of GEO magazine.
GEO reported that 500 new solar jobs were added in Ohio in 2014 bring the total to 4,300 ranking the state 10th in solar jobs nationally. More than 1,100 of those solar workers are employed at First Solar’s Perrysburg plant.