WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lee County Company Adding Solar Array

Jul 13, 2015

Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing has come a long way since the company was formed in 1982. Jenny Steffensmeier, who is President/Owner, said her late husband, Ben, started the company in a small welding shop about a mile from its current location near Pilot Grove, Ia.

"He had the opportunity to start on his own," said Steffensmeier.  "(He) moved back up to this location, where he was employed prior to that move. (He) bought some little pieces of equipment here, a welder was his first gig of course.  (He) hired on his older brother and just grew it from there."

The proposed solar field for Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing
Credit Ideal Energy

Today, the company employs more than 20 people.  It works directly with several southeast Iowa companies, including Blockbuster Firewood Processors (Mt. Pleasant, Ia.) and Hillphoenix (Keosauqua, Ia.). The company is undertaking its next endeavor: the installation of a 428.4 kW solar field.

"We are looking at an investment (of nearly $1 million)," said Steffensmeier, "knowing that it's going to pay off in savings to the tune of ($2.5 million) over 25 years."

The project is expected to reduce the company's carbon emissions by nearly 9,000 metric tons.  The announcement of the solar field, which will have 1,428 panels, was made during a visit by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Ideal Energy (Fairfield, Ia.) designed the solar field.  It is scheduled to be installed this fall. Owner Troy Van Beek said this will be the largest solar array to make a manufacturing plant like this "net zero."

"So this will be an incredible hallmark solar array in Iowa," said Van Beek.  "It's unprecedented to take what you saw when you walked through this manufacturing plant, all of the energy consumption here, will be provided by clean, renewable solar energy."

Van Beek personally thanked Branstad for his leadership on a solar tax credit, adding the Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing project "is going to be an incredible, incredible experience."

Jenny Steffensmeier said this will save her company $7,000/month on electricity.

"This partnership is going to allow us to take care of (our) employees as we add more and take care of our customers and that is what we are all about," said Steffensmeier.