Battery Storage of Solar Power to Bring Iowa “On the Grid” with the Latest Advances

Solar panels can be paired with battery storage for elongated energy, but they are a rare combination in Iowa.


While experts in the industry say this combination could be a leader in changing the state’s renewable market, it has also been presented that these battery storage systems are on the rise in the southern Iowa region. 

Solar Projects Bringing Southern Iowa Ahead 

Fairfield, Iowa is the primary city where the large projects are taking place to prove this growth. These are managed my Ideal Energy, where the director of design and finance plans to research large-scale battery storage of solar energy. With these two projects taking place at Maharishi University of Management and Agri-Industrial Plastics Co., director Aurelien Windenberger anticipates strong impacts on the regional electric grid and energy prices. 

Considering the fact that the state already leads the wind power industry and sees possibly incredible solar growth, Windenberger sees battery storage as the final resolution to grid being launched to the head of the market. The cost of battery storage is continually falling, and it will soon complement solar and wind together very well, even if they are occasional sources of energy production.

The Fairfield Economic Development Association was recently awarded a $200,000 research grant by the Iowa Economic Development Authority for Ideal Energy’s research. This is the project that is determined to be the Fairfield Energy Storage System Demonstration. 

What are The Solar Projects? 

The first project, Agri-Industrial Plastics’ 517-kilowatt solar array, includes a lithium-ion battery storage system. The battery should spread the usefulness into the night, saving the company over $42,000 per year.  

Then there is the second project at Maharishi University. Here there is a 1.1-megawatt array being installed along with a 1.1-megawatt hour vanadium battery storage system. With the use of active tracking technology, the panels will be able to follow the sun’s movement across the sky, continually collecting solar energy throughout the day. The project is expected to generate about one-third of the university’s electricity needs.  

Challenges Still Remain 

While these projects show great potential, challenges exist as well. Along with the challenges of any location, energy of these key renewables can only be generated when the wind blows or sun shines. This has been the key trouble in the past, considering the fact that most energy is needed at night when the sun goes down and more power is needed in the home for lights, heat and more in-home activity. 

Other times when there is the greatest need for energy, so far identified as summer afternoons, are considered to be “peak” times, and these are times when energy can be sold back to the grid. 

Batteries can overcome these challenges in regard to solar energy. Also, with the cost of solar continually dropping, both in products and installation, storage and long-term usage makes it even less expensive so that it can be sold back to the grid when there is greater need, or when it would usually be more expensive or in the “peak.” This is the activity of “peak shaving,” similar to the stock market, providing the opportunity for consumers to save money on their bills through a price that is lower than energy generated through fossil fuels. 

Business Advantage 

So far research has primarily been completed in the private sector though the Iowa State University electric power research center. The ideas for further research of lithium ion batteries and their benefits to solar energy storage and the distribution of power have been recently presented by their director, Ann Kimber. Additionally, Josh Laraby, executive director with the Fairfield Economic Development Association, expressed increased business competition based upon the lower energy costs that will come with battery storage. The provides the potential for incredible overall economic benefits in Fairfield and surrounding southern Iowa areas. 

Potential Challenges Remain 

Promotion of solar energy and battery storage of solar power are expected in the near future by the CEO of Ideal Energy. One potential promotion includes solar incentives like those already present in so many other areas, including Missouri and Illinois. While Iowa has already been at the head of the pack on the wind market, the Iowa energy companies still have many steps that can be taken to help bring solar onto their markets. While incentives are of great hope, Brian Selinger of IEDA’s Iowa Energy Office presents the response of them being a possibility in the long-run though they won’t be immediate. 

Next Steps of the Project 

The recently created Iowa Energy Storage Committee will decide what the next steps of the project will be. They hope to have advice for stakeholders and lawmakers on the topic in early 2019, especially considering the have there isn’t much in place regarding energy storage to this point.

The last Iowa Energy Plan was generated in 2016 with the statement of energy storage as “an area of opportunity” without any real detail. The grid was presented with the potential for resiliency and efficiency. IEDA Director Debi Durham said in a news release that selling Iowa to manufacturers around the world always include the state’s energy portfolio. Incredibly enough, the state already meets the needs of an economy on production with 40% renewable resources. While this is already efficient and affordable this is potential for the numbers to boom. 





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