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Steel factory flips switch on solar array

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. - Louis Industries activated one of Minnesota's largest solar arrays, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. The family-owned steel manufacturing plant is using more than 1,200 solar panels to power its facility.

One of Minnesota's largest solar projects goes live

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. – Louis Industries activated one of Minnesota’s largest solar arrays, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. The family-owned steel manufacturing plant is using more than 1,200 solar panels to power its facility. New solar incentives made this an easy decision for a company committed to energy efficiency.

“Everything started looking better. Xcel Energy’s new capacity credit, federal tax incentives, and rapid depreciation made this a very good investment for us,” said Leo Louis, CEO of Louis Industries. “We’d actually considered a wind turbine, but with solar costs coming down, now was the right time.”

“We’re delighted to partner with Louis Industries on this solar project,” said Chris Clark, regional president of Xcel Energy. “Our customers are increasingly interested in clean energy options that are efficient, and we’re committed to providing them with more options to achieve their own energy goals.”

Innovative Power Systems of St. Paul supplied and installed the solar system. The Minnesota-made solar panels cover more than an acre, or 65,000 square feet of roof space. The 498-kilowatt DC array will produce about 625,000 kilowatt hours per year.

“This solar power system is truly a coming of age for my company, and for the solar industry in Minnesota,” said Ralph Jacobson, the CEO of Innovative Power Systems. “Over the past 25 years we have installed about 1,000 solar arrays in compliance with a 40-kilowatt cap on net metering in Minnesota. The move to increase the cap to 1,000 kilowatts in 2013 was significant for us. We are thrilled to be able to apply solar energy at a meaningful scale to power up Louis Industries’ steel fabrication plant.”

A long-time industry leader in steel, Louis Industries has worked to reduce its electricity bill while increasing its manufacturing process. By adding the solar array, Louis says he can reduce his $15,000 monthly electric bill by $5,000 each month.

Bloomington manufacturer TenK Solar created the unique panels that will reflect more light and prevent wind from lifting the panels. Winkelman Building Corporation of St. Cloud designed and constructed the buildings holding the solar panels on the flat roof.

Xcel Energy is expanding its solar energy resources in Minnesota, with a mix of large-scale solar projects and smaller scale projects such as rooftop solar and solar gardens. These projects are part of Xcel Energy’s drive to deliver an energy mix that is 63 percent carbon free, with at least 8 percent of electricity being generated from solar.

Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Innovative Power is celebrating 25 years as a Minnesota-based solar installer.  The employee-owned construction company has completed over 1,000 renewable projects and is recognized as one of the Top U.S. Solar Contractors by Solar Power World Magazine (2013, 2014, 2015).  The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association recently recognized CEO Ralph Jacobson with its first Lifetime Achievement Award, a group he co-founded in 2007.  For more information on solar in Minnesota visit

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