Iowa installs first solar+storage peak-shaving power plant


Agri-Industrial Plastics Company (AIP), an advanced manufacturing operation specializing in industrial blow molding, inaugurated Iowa’s first solar and Tesla Powerpack project last week. Designed by Iowa-based energy firm Ideal Energy, this is the first system of its kind in the state.

Agri-Industrial Plastics Company combines a 517 kW roof-mounted array with a 212 kWh battery system.

“My administration recognizes energy as a key resource and an area of strategic importance to Iowa’s economy,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “We want to keep energy costs low and energy jobs growing. I’m proud of the leadership role state government has played in fueling this kind of economic growth.”

AIP’s new power plant features a 517-kW roof-mounted solar array that works in tandem with a 212 kWh Tesla Powerwall energy storage system. During the day, the solar panels generate energy which charges the Powerwall and powers the company’s advanced manufacturing operations. The battery system runs on an artificially-intelligent control system to automatically discharge at times of high energy usage (or peak demand) to avoid or reduce costly demand charges. The array will save AIP an average of $42,477 per year.

Celebrating Iowa’s first Tesla Powerpack project with state officials. Left to right: Amy Van Beek, CMO, Ideal Energy Inc.; Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa; Lori Schaefer-Weaton, President, Agri-Industrial Plastics; Troy Van Beek, CEO, Ideal Energy Inc.; Debi Durham, Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Brian Sellinger, Team Leader, Iowa Energy Office; Joshua Laraby, Executive Director, Fairfield Economic Development Association.

Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of Agri-Industrial Plastics Company, said the decision was motivated by high utility costs. Blow molding is energy-intensive, and the scale of the 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. “Some of the payback will be strategic, longer term, by building excitement around working at Agri-Industrial Plastics and being part of something bigger.”

Project developer Ideal Energy recognized the potential impact of peak demand reduction in Iowa’s manufacturing industry and pursued a research grant to study it. The grant, which was facilitated by the Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), will be used to evaluate the performance of the AIP peak shaving power plant. “I know this project will also serve as an inspiration for other businesses who are looking to innovate,” said Governor Reynolds.

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