Growing up in Ohio, I always hoped I would have the chance to be part of a movement that would transform my home region into a hub for renewable energy. And during my time as the Midwest Market Lead for Madison Energy Investments, one of the largest renewable energy infrastructure companies in America, I have had the opportunity to steward a new wave of clean energy infrastructure projects in the Midwest.
This regions potential was highlighted during this year’s Midwest Solar Expo (MWSE). The event brought together key players from all over the region to discuss ways to advance clean energy deployment during a pivotal period of change. If you want to learn more about clean energy, catch up on our takeaways from the event! I was thrilled to be a part of MWSE, where I reconnected with industry colleagues, learned from Midwestern clean energy champions, and got a chance to showcase our great region.
Even more exciting, I joined a presentation titled 'Federal Deep Dive: How do the IRA & the IIJA affect you?' and was joined by industry peers from Kendall Sustainable Infrastructure, Perch Energy, and Solstice. Catch a clip of the session below. Above all else, two days in Chicago proved that the Midwest is a leader here to stay at the forefront of the clean energy revolution. Whether on the ground floor or in meeting rooms, you're serving a vital role in a transformative time that will create a more sustainable future for future generations. Here's a snapshot of a few (they were all great!) of our favorite sessions.
Speakers Utopia Hill with Reactivate, Eric Pasi with New Energy Equity, and Amit Shukla - Renewable Energy Strategies & Solutions, LLC The morning started strong with an event session on actionable equity; Eric Pasi highlighted the importance of innovative programs like Solar Start in North Minneapolis, which provides solar energy to historically black communities through a lease proposal at almost no cost. "This program is a prime example of how we can open up people's imaginations and help traditionally underserved communities feel included in the renewable energy movement. By expanding our mindset and implementing similar programs, we can break down barriers and make renewable energy accessible to everyone, regardless of income or background." Utopia Hill with Reactivate drove home the crucial message of the structure of clean energy access, emphasizing the need to address the disproportionate burden that low and moderate-income households face regarding energy bills. "When you have a household that already has a low, moderate income, and they're paying 3 to 4 times more of their net home pay in their energy bills compared to everything else, is a small price...And to your point as well, Eric, if we want to have wider adoption, if we want to have a wider nation, and we want people to feel like they are part of this, this great transition, that we have to also provide the educational component with workforce training, which reaching out through even K -12 and letting them know that, you know, sustainability and transitioning to a green future benefits all of us."
Various IRA panels
Various speakers Rep. Sean Casten [IL-06] - U.S. House of Representatives, John Delurey - Vote Solar, Krysta Dummit - U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, Georgina Arreola - Perch Energy, Eric Luesebrink - Kendall Sustainable Infrastructure, Steph Speirs - Solstice Power Technologies, and myself. As the renewable energy industry continues to grow, there is a significant opportunity for developers to take advantage of the financial incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA will provide nearly $400 billion to support climate and clean energy solutions, creating massive funding for renewable energy development. As a market leader in the renewable energy sector, we must provide developers and, by extension, their customers with the tools and resources they need to succeed in this evolving landscape. There's a lot of information to unpack with the IRA and its continuous guidance from the agencies that govern it. First, the bill generates profound and potentially cautious enthusiasm to channel investments toward the economic revitalization of communities long fueled by coal, oil, and gas workers.
This bill ensures their ongoing contribution to American energy security. A major advantage of IRA funding is that it significantly accelerates solar-plus-storage installation, job creation, and grid stability.
Watch a clip of the session here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7059267717756809216
With our experience and expertise, developers can quickly track and adapt to federal changes, ensuring they are always positioned to take advantage of new opportunities. Our legal and market development teams have spent extensive time tracking the updates related to the IRA, including when we might see the impacts of different programs and how developers can best position themselves to succeed. By partnering with us, developers can focus on what they do best — developing innovative renewable energy solutions — while we provide the financial expertise needed to turn those solutions into reality.
On Wednesday, Jon Carson - Trajectory Energy Partners, Carlo Cavallaro - Coalition for Community Solar Access, Jessica Collingsworth – Nexamp, John Hulse - SolarEdge Technologies, and Mark Raeder - Summit Ridge Energy had an engaging conversation on Community Solar in the Midwest. Community solar (CS) remains top of mind for Midwestern solar developers. States like Minnesota and Illinois have shown the immense potential these programs bring to local citizens, businesses, and municipalities. In addition, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin eagerly review potential legislation to open the door to their own CS programs. These programs create opportunities for those looking to subscribe to solar projects and create a new revenue stream for landowners across the region and new life for brownfield sites long left ignored and unused. When asked, "Is there a state whose success in community solar would be an indicator of success for the industry? Most of the panelists responded with Missouri, Maryland, and Ohio. Jon Carson with Trajectory Energy Partners said, "I can't imagine them passing the sort of program Illinois has with dedicated support for projects. But with the minority community, solar will be possible in some states just by saying this is something you can do to interconnect to this piece of electricity. Just we kind of have that in Illinois. Half the law says you can do this. Here's how it works. The other half of the law says we have a support program for those projects. So that would be the sign that there's enough pressure and interest in this that a state would." Mark Raeder, Principal at Summit Ridge Energy, voted Maryland - "In terms of replicating. Some aspects of that program. ] Specifically, one aspect of it is the treatment of rooftop solar; we don't deal with the same permitting obstacles ... it's very diverse and checks a lot of boxes.
Jessica Collingsworth detailed, "Ohio as the Republican trifecta" would be a great indicator, and "Wisconsin, I think, could also be big and has a bill currently, and it's getting good traction with bipartisan support." Jessica also noted a challenge that will require greater education from everyone, essentially everywhere 'farming is a precious and vital commodity.' "I do think the farmland issue I brought up earlier is continuous in every state in the Midwest where I go talk to legislators or the policymakers. It's a continuous talking point of 'this is the best farmland in the country, and I don't want to use it for solar.' So, working with them around solutions like agrivoltaics or learning the size between utility-scale, and community solar. I think there's education around that is definitely needed. "
In the same way Minnesota and Illinois have led the charge on community solar, we have also seen those state governments create profitable markets for solar growth. Unfortunately, despite the massive demand for solar assets from a grassroots level, some Midwestern states continue to foster unfriendly regulatory environments. What's encouraging to see the hyperlocal efforts to foster growth. In my backyard in Central Ohio, major players like Intel, Facebook, and AWS continue to require renewable energy resources. In addition, municipalities across the region are creating their own clean energy goals. These efforts continue to push the needle forward.
Topics of conversation were the 100-carbon-free incentive, how committees are helping site practice equitably, making sure utility-scale developers aren't the only ones benefiting from policies, and how to work out your differences in public. Kevin Borgia of SunVest Solar said that the primary reoccurring theme is "We need to work together...we all want to see renewables expand; how we get there is a different question, right? You know, people should be paid well. The first thing that needs to happen." Laura Sherman, Executive Director of Michigan Energy Innovators Business Council, said, "I encourage you all to think of the places you disagree with but also think of where you can compromise. We're doing this a lot in Michigan. Coalition building is really hard, but we are well-placed to play an important role. We make sure the industry is at the table, but we make sure we're not forgetting the environmental groups, the environmental justice organizations, and we're actively listening to communities and trying to figure it out."
Technology: Arcadia, Drones, and AI
The utilization of technology has revolutionized various industries, and the construction sector is no exception. At a recent event session, seasoned industry professionals gathered to discuss how developers, construction contractors, and operators leverage technology to enhance project safety, accelerate timelines, and reduce costs. The session provided valuable insights into the innovative tech initiatives that are transforming the construction landscape. On the power of the technology, John Blattner with Omnidian. "We can bring the economics of scale to project developers, EPCs and businesses, and residential partners and leverage that AI to create a better customer experience because you're not getting false alerts. We're moving the world from a reactive environment to a proactive environment where we're able to identify symptom detection before .. the drip, before the pipe burst, if you will. [We're] really pushing organizations to focus on what they do best, develop more projects. The software projects work out the hard stuff that makes money."
Schedule a meeting with me post-MWSE! At our core, we believe that the renewable energy industry has the power to transform our world and create a more sustainable future for generations to come. With the financial opportunities presented by the IRA, now is the time for renewable energy developers to seize the moment and create a brighter, cleaner future for all. The Midwest Solar Expo was an important event for anyone looking to stay ahead of the curve in the renewable energy industry, but it doesn't need to end there. It's clear from the takeaways that bringing together decision-makers from across the regions spurs thoughtful conversations that should continue, whether digitally or in person. I was excited to participate in this event and look forward to the positive impact we can make together – talk soon.