Solar ribbon cutting ceremony

We welcomed summer on the solstice last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our solar array at Moontree Studios. You can see the video here, on Facebook.

As a data fiend, you know I was excited about watching the kilowatt-hours roll in on our online interface, which shows live and historic energy production. Below is a snapshot. There is also a wind turbine tied into the same connection, so we are going to make some fun charts with the data!

Join us for a solar-bration on the summer solstice!

While you’re here, I wanted to share a few statistics from the 2017 net metering summary:

*More customer-owned renewable energy (mostly solar) was installed last year in Indiana (29.2 MW) than all previous years combined (20.0 MW).

*There is still room to grow… the existing 49.2 MW of net-metered systems is still only about 1/5 of the maximum capacity allowed under current rules.

*The net-metering customer base increased 76% in a single year, now reaching nearly 2,000 Hoosier customers.

*Indiana has a total of 275 MW of solar capacity installed. Utility-scale projects are now being planned for the state that are 150-200 MW in size. (Yes, you read that right).

*Percentage of Indiana’s electricity that comes from solar: 0.39%. Our regional electric grid can probably withstand several more years of rapid growth before running into any planning issues around solar’s intermittency. Still lots of room and jobs to grow.

*The solar group-purchase known as “Solarize Indiana” wrapped up last December, and totaled nearly 100 installations across the South Bend-Goshen area, adding up to more than 700 kW. Read more here.

*More reading: “Solar advocates believe industry will overcome net metering changes.”

Grant for Prescribed Burns

A little belated, but here’s the press release:


DONALDSON, IN – On April 11, 2018, The Center at Donaldson was awarded $4,400 for its prescribed burn program from Arrow Head County Resource Conservation and Development. This grant allows The Center at Donaldson to purchase equipment and protective gear that will allow the program to increase the number of acres that can brought under a safe and efficient rotation of planned fire as a form of land management.

Adam Thada, Director of Ecological Relationships, started the prescribed burn program in 2016. “During our first dormant season, our team burned 20 acres,” Thada said. “This year, we grew to 32 acres. We would like to burn more, but our scale had been limited by our equipment. Now we can continue to expand. We have up to 170 acres on the property that could benefit from the use of fire.”

The original ecological communities of the Midwest evolved in the context of periodic fires, whether by lightning or by humans. Prairie, savanna, and oak woodlands are some of these biodiverse systems found at The Center at Donaldson.

“Without the use of fire,” Thada noted, “these systems are returning to more shade-tolerant communities that fare poorly during droughts. This is happening right as we are seeing increasing temperatures and drought stress due to climate change. Our management goal is to encourage resilient, fire-adapted systems that can carry biodiversity into the future.”

More of this!

Modern prescribed fire crews receive certification through training programs and use specific equipment and gear. Some of the items purchased with this grant money include a weather meter to record wind speed and humidity, fire-resistant clothing, helmets, and radios. The main piece of equipment purchased is a 50-gallon sprayer. When mounted to the back of a UTV (utility vehicle), it enables a fire crew more off-road flexibility, reaching place that a pickup truck cannot get to.

The effects of the first prescribed burns have already been seen. There is a general increase in the amount of wildflowers seen on the forest floor and in the wetlands. After a thick layer of cattail litter was burned off this spring, marsh marigolds burst into bloom within weeks.

Thada said, “I am grateful to Arrow Head County Resource Conservation and Development for investing in the stewardship of our natural areas. My hope is that we can expand the use of safe and beneficial prescribed fire to other landowners who are interested in the health of their lands.”

The Arrow Head County Resource Conservation and Development is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide local leadership for developing and carrying out a plan for the orderly conservation, improvement, development and wise use of natural resources.

Members of the Arrow Head County Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. presented Adam Thada, Director of Ecological Relationships, a check for The Center at Donaldson’s prescribed fire program. Pictured are Howard Conner, Adam Thada, and Joe Skelton.