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Former Monsanto employee helps start solar power firm

Former Monsanto employee helps start solar power firm

MORNING SUN, Iowa — Just three years after leaving one of the nation’s biggest agricultural chemical/biotechnology companies, a Crawfordsville man is poised to help lead a new company into becoming one of the country’s largest solar power developers. And a couple Louisa County school districts hopes to capitalize on the cost savings from that technology. 

Jason Egli, 43, is the president of EPo Energy, Cedar Falls, but recently he pointed out his five years with Monsanto, during which he developed numerous business and international contacts, provided him with a good head start to lead a company that has developed solar systems that now provide around 20 percent of the nation’s solar power.

One of EPo Energy’s latest projects has been the installation of a solar power system at the Morning Sun Elementary School. The idea for the project started last year with former school superintendent Doug Graber, who retired earlier this year, before unexpectedly passing away this summer. Egli said he and Graber both grew up in the same area and began collaborating on the Morning Sun project after EPo began building a system for the WACO School District.

Together with his college friend John Brandt, who also has an extensive international business background; and his cousins Nathan, Mark and Ryan Porter, Egli helped found a company that is now reaching into the international market, while continuing to focus on solar projects in the U.S.

“For us, this is more than a business. Everyone wants to see their next generation better taken care of than the last. And with solar energy, we have a clean, renewable energy. It eliminates our electrical supply's carbon footprint, keeps the area green and provides our customers with a low cost electricity supply,” the founders explain on the company’s website.

According to earlier reports, Morning Sun officials hope to eventually save up to $15,000 a year in electrical costs using the system, which Egli said would cost around $300,000 to install.

He said a partnership was created with several investors to cover that initial cost and also to take advantage of federal and state tax credits and utility rebates. “They paid for the system and will lease it to the school,” Egli said, explaining the school also had a purchase option included in the six-year lease agreement.

“The investors have to own it for six years (to receive the tax credits),” Egli said.

If the system ends up producing more energy than the school can use, Egli said the excess energy would be sent to Alliant Energy. Alliant would establish a “savings account” of the surplus energy amount for the district, which could draw on the account during the winter, when energy production will be lower, but consumption likely higher.

Current Morning Sun Superintendent Mike Peterson, who is shared with the Wapello School District, said the Wapello School District may also begin looking at installing a solar power system.

“I think it’s going to be a spreading thing in this part of the state,” he said.

Egli said he and the other company founders agree, although he indicated animal confinement complexes and business sites would likely provide the company with most of its growth.

He said the firm is currently working on a large system installation at a Burlington convenience store that would produce about four times the energy provided by the Morning Sun system.

There are also potential projects brewing in several countries.

“Economically it makes sense,” Egli said.


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