Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. (AIP), a leading manufacturer of blow molded plastic parts, is about to begin construction of a 517 kilowatt (kW) solar array and a 424 kW-hour Tesla battery system at its facility in Fairfield, Iowa. This is the first solar project in the Midwest to incorporate Tesla Powerpack.

Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of AIP, said the decision was motivated by the company’s high utility costs. Blow molding is energy intensive and the scale of AIP’s 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. She expects the array to attract forward-thinking employees. The state-of-the-art solar project will fit in at AIP’s facility, which uses robotic automation, sophisticated engineering techniques, and features a clean and modern work environment. The array will also demonstrate to AIP’s customers – many of which have green initiatives of their own – that AIP is planning for the long-term.

“We think the payback will be there,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “Some of it will be in things we can measure really easily, like our utility bill. Some will be strategic, longer term, by building excitement around working at Agri-Industrial Plastics and being part of something bigger.”

Tesla Powerpack, which is a battery energy storage system designed for commercial and utility-scale customers, will allow AIP to ‘peak shave.’ Peak shaving cuts expensive demand charges by reducing electricity consumption during high times such as hot summer days. Demand charges can increase a customer’s electrical costs for the entire year and account for up to 30% to 70% of a customer’s utility bill.

Battery energy storage systems automatically detect when power usage exceeds a pre-determined threshold and switch from the grid or solar panels to batteries until the additional demand is over. When demand goes back down the batteries recharge.

Because AIP runs three shifts, its power usage is high at night when solar arrays are not producing. Battery energy storage systems provide a solution, allowing AIP to peak shave at any time, day or night.

Ideal Energy, one of Iowa’s leading solar energy firms, will design and build the array and install the Tesla Powerpack system. Ideal Energy installed the first solar + storage system in the state and has been a pioneer in the battery energy storage field in the Midwest.

The array, which will be built on the roof of AIP’s 340,000 square foot facility at 22nd St. and Grimes Ave., will save the company an average of $42,477 per year and prevent 9,377 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years – equivalent to over 10 million pounds of coal.

“I would consider it a strategic investment for our future,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “We’re in it for the long haul. We’re in it for our customers, we’re in it for our employees, we’re in it for our community of Fairfield.”