Connecting Solar to the Grid

Coffee roaster works with MGE to power its business with solar-generated electricity.

Ballering standing with cup of coffee by solar panels

Businesses large and small are installing solar panels and connecting to our community's electric grid. Steep & Brew Coffee is a great example.

Ballering and employee working

Mark Ballering, owner and founder of Steep & Brew, has always operated his business with an emphasis on being environmentally conscious. A Madison-based company for more than three decades, Steep & Brew succeeds by operating with a global perspective—buying coffee beans internationally and distributing several brands of coffee in the United States.

"From recycling to carbon reduction, whatever we can do both as a business and individually, will make the world more livable," Ballering said. "Making use of solar energy seemed like an obvious thing to do."

Steep & Brew recently installed an 80-kilowatt, 315-panel solar photovoltaic (PV) system atop the roof of the office, roasting facility and distribution center in Monona. The PV system produces enough electricity for nearly 80% of the building's annual electric usage.

Solar panels on rooftop

Ballering worked with MGE specialists to evaluate the electricity usage at his facility and provide insight into customer-owned (parallel) generation. Ballering uses the electricity generated by his solar panels to power his business while unused electricity is sold to MGE and fed into our community grid.

"We want to work with customers to achieve their energy goals," said Jesse Shields, MGE Account Manager. "Projects like these also support our goals outlined in MGE's Energy 2030 framework that transition our community to a more environmentally sustainable energy supply.

"A more advanced electric grid means enabling our system to seamlessly handle the growth of new technologies, whether that's customer-owned solar or utility-scale renewable generation. MGE is there for customers who need help in determining how to move forward with solar but who also need the reliability of being connected to our grid when solar power is unable to meet all of their needs," Shields added.

Making it work for his business

Before Ballering could take his step toward solar, he first needed to determine whether a PV installation was feasible.

The entire process went smoothly, resulting in a launch date on June 1, 2016.

Making it work for all of us

In the first 30 days of operation, Steep & Brew's PV system offset significant amounts of energy that would have otherwise been generated with fossil fuels. By using solar, Ballering reduces his carbon footprint.

"From the beginning, it is about doing what is right for our community," Ballering said. "This not only includes our customers but our employees, neighbors and planet as a whole."

At MGE, we partner with customers, such as Ballering, to meet their energy needs and support the growth of solar energy in our community by connecting those resources to the electric grid and ensuring that all resources work seamlessly and reliably together to meet customer and community needs. New and improved technologies are making it easier to create a more sustainable energy future. Connecting solar-generated energy to the grid allows everyone to benefit from clean, homegrown energy.

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published: 09-06-2016