Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Clean Power

Minnesota’s First Community Solar Project Doubles Down On Local

 
As community solar grows in popularity, an innovative solar project by the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association in Minnesota highlights the opportunity of merging local ownership with locally assembled solar panels.

Earlier this fall, this cooperative serving communities just north and west of the Twin Cities metropolitan area announced Minnesota’s first community solar project. The 40-kilowatt (kW) solar array will be located at the cooperative’s headquarters, with members allowed to purchase individual panels in the project for $869 per 180-watt panel. In exchange, members will receive a credit on their bill equal to the electricity production of their portion of the 40kW array.

Participation in the community solar project lowers the payback period for solar, as compared to individual ownership, by 7-12 years.

The project is organized by the Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado-based firm that has already built two community solar projects with rural electric cooperatives in that state and with plans to build several more. Their projects are noteworthy for being the only consistently replicable community solar model, as evidenced by their success. (For more on community solar projects, see our 2010 report).

Partnership is the key to CEC’s success, with the company providing cooperatives with “RemoteMeter” software allowing them to handle the accounting part of the community solar project (and a smartphone app to allow participants to track production). They also handle all of the project financing and development, with utilities having merely to market the program to their members and help oversee the project interconnection to their electric grid.

The community solar project provides a good deal for members, for three reasons. Most Minnesotans lack an appropriate, sunny space for a solar array (75% of people rent or have a roof that is unsuitable for solar). With Wright-Hennepin’s community solar array, participants can own a share of a local, centralized system that will be maintained by the cooperative, and still get their share of the electricity as though it were on their own rooftop.

The Clean Energy Collective has also negotiated a good rate for solar electricity, with participants receiving a credit of 12¢ per kWh generated by their panels, in comparison to the cooperative’s average residential retail rate of 9.3¢ per kWh.

The $4.83 per watt cost for panels is also better than it looks, because the Wright-Hennepin project will use equipment from Minnesota’s tenKsolar. Using an innovative, low-cost reflector, the tenKsolar array boosts output by 25% over a traditional fixed-tilt solar array, with an estimated output of around 291 kWh per year from each 180W panel compared to 233 kWh from a traditional solar module. The local sourcing for equipment will also keep more of the cooperative members’ energy dollars in their community.

Investments in the Wright-Hennepin community solar project pay back in 20 years, according to the Clean Energy Collective (our own calculation was 25 years). Either way, it compares favorably to an individually-owned solar project, which would have a payback of 32 years or more. And the Clean Energy Collective warrants the project for 50 years, over which period a participant will have lifetime net savings of nearly $20,000.

 
 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

New Podcast: Cruise Talks Autonomous Driving Tech, Regulations, & Auto Design

New Podcast: Battery Mineral Mining Policies & Regional Trends

Written By

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Advertisement

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats

Advertisement

Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Clean Transport

In the market for an ambulance? How about an electric one!

Batteries

Back in September 2020, Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company (GREC) acquired the Rawhide Prairie Solar Storage project in Larimer County, Colorado. Solar Power World reports...

Clean Transport

The 37-member CHARGE coalition has called on the Biden administration to electrify public transit and expand EV charging infrastructure with a focus on communities...

Cars

Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog. By Kathy Harris, Walton Shepherd Virginia Governor Northam signed into law a bill to join 17 other states...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.