With solar power, Trusted Energy pitches a bright idea

Grinnell College’s solar farm provides 30 percent of the school’s energy. Photo: Trusted Energy

By Steve Dinnen

Iowa overflows with wind power. Enough is produced here to power the entire state. Iowa is building its solar generating capacity, too, thanks in part to a Storm Lake company that recently launched a $50 million fund to build renewable energy plants that harnass the power of the sun.

Trusted Energy, a family-owned firm, plans, designs, engineers, installs and maintains facilities that generate renewable electricity, including power from the sun and wind. Its list of clients includes colleges, manufacturers, municipalities, retailers, schools and even a Minnesota brewery.

One of Trusted’s bigger recent projects was an $8 million solar farm for Grinnell College, which aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040 and has leaned heavily into renewable energy in recent years. It hired Trusted to build the solar farm next to the campus, on school-owned property that now provides 30% of the college’s power. Grinnell agreed to a 20-year purchase of the power, which will save it $3 million in energy expenses over that term.

The deal worked for Trusted because it’s selling power to Grinnell at a price that is slightly below retail but significantly higher than the wholesale rate it would fetch if it sold that energy into the national electric grid. Trusted has used that single-customer concept elsewhere, including the schools in Albert City and a marina on Lake Okoboji that didn’t have much land for solar panels but instead offered up its rooftop.

Financing the Grinnell project inspired Trusted President and CEO Rob Hach to create a fund to bring investors into other projects and tap into the renewable energy boom. So he launched Buffalo Ridge Capital LLC, an alternative investment for accredited investors that is raising $50 million to bankroll both solar and wind energy projects. Investment banks estimate that an astounding $16 trillion will be plowed into renewable energy between 2020 and 2030.

“All we want is 1/16,000th of it,” Hach mused.

Funds raised will be assigned to both wind and solar projects. Trusted has already participated in both, either on its own or with other investors, in projects across Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma and other states.

The fund’s details are spelled out at buffaloridgecapital.com. Its leaders project a cash return of $119,172 over 10 years on a minimum investment of $50,000.

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