The Foundation of Indiana's Solar Industry
Indiana’s first and only Amicus Solar Cooperative member owner company
We are a Certified B Corporation and have always used our business as a force for good…
Morton has a rich history which has had a major positive impact on the solar energy industry in Indiana. However, it was not without trials, tribulations, failures, and plenty of perseverance. Over the last 10 years, there have been over 3300 solar related jobs created in Indiana (https://irecusa.org/programs/solar-jobs-census/). Many of these jobs and businesses can be attributed to state and regional policies and precedence from our trailblazing efforts from inside the belly of the beast of Indiana’s coal industry.
Industrial Control Engineering, LLC was founded by Brad Morton after spending several years in the automated manufacturing industry as a Controls Engineer. The primary customer was the Caterpillar Mining Truck Plant in Decatur, Illinois where Brad design and programmed several automated manufacturing machines for wheel and drivetrain components of Caterpillar’s mining truck product line. One truck in particular was the CAT 797 which at one point was the largest mining truck in the world. This business supported many of the early efforts to educate and promote solar energy.
"They say starting a business is hard, but starting an entire industry, impossible."
Morton awarded first solar energy project to the Ohio Township Public library. Unfortunately, the utility company denied the interconnection application due to exceeding the 10KW size limit which was the state law for net-metering at the time. Morton designed a battery bank to operate some loads in off-grid mode so that portion of the energy would not be fed back to the grid. Solar energy systems do not operate as efficiently in off-grid configurations and they are more expensive than grid-tied systems. The experience left Morton with the realization that better net-metering laws were needed to allow solar energy to proliferate in Indiana.
Morton Energy, LLC was founded by brothers Brad and Matt Morton with the mission to create a new renewable energy market in Southwest Indiana, which is the heart of Indiana’s coal mining industry and one of the highest carbon-dioxide emitting regions of the United States. The goal was to install large scale solar on un-reclaimed strip mine land that proliferates Southern Indiana landscape as effort to combat climate change, and to create high paying union jobs in solar energy that we knew would have to replace coal mining jobs which supported our family for years.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
First Bifacial solar panels installed in Indiana. Proving solar energy works…
Industrial Control Engineering forced to restructure as Morton Solar. By this time, Morton Energy, LLC had encountered financial difficulties due to the lack of market demand for solar energy. Residential solar was extremely hard to sell due to the high cost of solar panels and the lack of state policies to encourage renewables made it even more difficult. One of the miscalculations made by Brad and Matt was the level of resistance and negativity that would be encountered and the level of climate change denialism that would be an emotional challenge for the business. The only method to move forward was to utilize financial resources from Industrial Control Engineering to fund the activities of educating, promoting, and developing solar projects from income primarily from its primary customer Caterpillar. In essence, Morton Solar was funded by the mining industry.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Senator Lugar Energy Patriot
Morton awarded project to install solar & wind energy test project for Hoosier Energy, REC at their Victory Substation located in Jasper, Indiana. The project was one of the first solar/wind projects for the utility company and the goal was to study the feasibility of solar & wind in Southern Indiana. In order for the project to be as efficient as possible, Morton designed the system utilizing bifacial solar panels and installed over a limestone surface to create as much reflectivity as possible. The solar energy system was highly productive, with a production ratio of over 1.4 KWH/KWP, whereas the wind energy system was not as productive. The data from this test site, and several others installed by Morton, convinced Hoosier Energy that solar energy was a much better investment than wind energy. Thus, Hoosier Energy has built several hundred megawatts of solar energy sites across Indiana to date.
Chrisney Public Library
Morton was awarded a project to design and install a solar project for the new Lincoln Heritage Public Library to be located in Chrisney, Indiana. The project concept was developed by architect Bill Brown who grew up in Spencer County to be as energy efficient as possible in order to save money on operating costs into the future due to the Town of Chrisney’s budgetary constraints. One of the main design criteria was that the library would have a solar energy system to offset electricity consumption. At the time, many of the board and community members were against the solar energy system saying it was ‘too expensive’ and it would ‘never pay for itself’. However, Bill Brown recommended the use of solar energy and thus the project moved forward. With all of the public skepticism surrounding solar energy in Indiana, Morton knew that the system had to be highly productive and reliable. So, we designed the system utilized the highest efficiency panels on the market at the time which were the Sanyo Bifacial panels. Additionally, Morton had over 2 years of production data from the Hoosier Energy projects and could see that they had a higher productivity than a standard panel.
The system was commissioned in December of 2008 and one year later is was evident that the solar energy system not only produced enough KWH’s to offset the building consumption. But, actually produced more than the building consumed and built up credits in the meter for the next year.
The following year, Morton reached out to the marketing department at University of Southern Indiana for advice on how to educate the public about this solar powered library. It was here that Brad was introduced to future Lt. Gov. Sue Ellsperman who was working for USI at the time. Sue was intrigued by the library and set out to get the library certified as a ‘Net-Zero’ Energy Building. To everybody’s surprise, the building happened to be the 1st Net-Zero Public Library in the United States.
Sue was so impressed by the project that she reached out to the current Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman’s office. Becky was also impressed and nominated and awarded the building “Indiana Dept. of Energy Partners in Progress Award” (picture). At that point Gov. Daniels was made aware of the building which was only five miles from the location for new Coal-to-Gas plant to be built near Rockport. At a press conference for the Coal-to-Gas plant, Morton was able to speak to Gov. Daniels about solar energy and the restrictive nature of the current net-metering law. Gov. Daniels said that he was not aware that it was restrictive and later had further conversation with Mr. Morton after the conference. (The video can be seen here). (Letter)
Approximately six months later, Gov. Daniels issued an executive order to the IURC to expand the net-metering law to allow more solar energy to proliferate in the state. In 2011, the law was expanded to allow ALL customer classes of Investor-Owned Utility companies the ability to ‘net-meter’ up to a 1MW in system size. This was a huge increase and laid the foundation for an entire solar industry to be built upon. Over the next ten years, over 3300 solar jobs were created in Indiana and still exist today. Gov. Daniels deserves full credit for this massive job creation in our state which built the foundation for an entire industry.
(Ref. Solar jobs report) (Chrisney Video) (Awards)
1st Net-Zero Library in United States
Haubstadt Community School Wind Project - A third grade class at Haubstadt Community School had aspirations to install a wind generator at the school. They raised funding by placing penny jars throughout the community and a grant from the Toyota Foundation helped move the project forward. Morton was chosen by the school to install the small 2KW wind unit and connect to the building’s electrical system. However, the interconnection was denied by the utility company stating that the school had three-phase electric service. Morton filed a complaint with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to review the denial. The IURC ruled that utility was wrong to deny the interconnection and instructed the utility company to rewrite their tariff to allow 3-phase customer the ability to ‘net-meter’. Had Morton not filed this complaint, it’s possible that 3 phase customers may not have had the ability to install solar energy systems on their businesses in Southwest Indiana. For this, Morton was awarded the Senator Lugar Energy Patriot award.
(See Lugar Award) (See IURC letter) (See pic with Weinzapfel)
1st Net-Zero School in the United States
Richardsville Elementary School
Morton was awarded a project by the Warren County School Corporation in Kentucky to design and install the solar energy system for their new school in Richardsville, Kentucky. The architect’s goal of the project was to build a energy efficient school for the Warren County School Corporation utilizing Insulated Concrete Form walls, geothermal heating and cooling, an energy efficient kitchen, and a controversial solar energy system. At the time, it was not known how much the energy the solar energy system would offset. However, after the first year, it was clear that the solar energy system would produce more than the building would consume. And, with TVA’s Green Power Partner’s program, the school would actually receive a check in the amount of $37,000 for extra energy production. The project was a resounding success and has made national news many times over. It was determined that the school was the first net-zero school in the United States.
Videos – MSNBC, YouTube, Newspaper Articles
June 21, 2013
IURC Cause #44344
Morton vs. Utility Company (David vs. Goliath)
On this date, Morton was forced to filed the 2nd complaint against the local utility. The history and precedent setting case was ground breaking and had never occurred in the United States. However, the outcome set precedence in the State of Indiana and introduced numerous improvements in the interconnection process which lowered the cost of renewable energy to all in SW Indiana.
The precedence setting case can be accessed here: https://www.in.gov/iurc/
Feb. 18th, 2015
Indiana House Bill 1320
Brad Morton voted as #1 speaker by Indiana’s solar energy industry members and representatives to speak against HB1320 which would effectively end net-metering for all customers of Investor-Owned Utilities across the state. Fortunately, the Governor did not sign the bill so it did not pass.
Here is a link to the Senate Energy Committee hearing for this bill: http://iga.in.gov/information/archives/2015/video/committee_utilities_and_energy_2000/
Our mission from the beginning has been to lower the cost of solar energy to our customers. But, we lowered the cost of solar for ALL citizens in Southwestern Indiana, including the competition.