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Wright-Hennepin’s Community Solar Display In Minnesota

This article first published on the Clean Energy Resource Teams blog
by Joel Haskard

Monday, September 9 at 6:30pm Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association will be welcoming community members and interested Minnesotans to the dedication of their first Solar Community project. It will be at WH’s headquarter facilities at 6800 Electric Drive, Rockford, MN. You can click here for more about the event. We followed up with Wright-Hennepin to learn a little more about the project. Read the interview below!

Joel Haskard: Why did Wright-Hennepin pursue a community solar project?

Wright-Hennepin: WH was interested in starting a community solar project to bring renewable energy options to members. WH took a unique approach as we are the first community solar project in the nation to combine battery storage with solar energy, so that energy may be stored and deployed at peak times. Oftentimes solar energy is being produced during the middle of the day, but energy demands are the highest around dinner time, so we are able to store the energy and use it when needed.

JH: How did your members respond to the opportunity?

WH: We received a lot of questions and feedback from members. We are sold out of the first community project and partially sold out of a second.

JH: How can members participate?

WH: We make it very simple for members to participate. They speak with WH as well as Clean Energy Collective, our partner in the project. We will help analyze their energy needs, budget, and participation desire (whether they wish to buy as few as one panel or enough to power their whole home). Once the member chooses the amount of panels they want, they can pay for the panels up front, or through financing with WH. After signing the agreement we take care of everything: the maintenance, tracking, credits on bills, etc.

JH: Can you share with us a few details about the system?

WH: The system will create energy, and participating members will receive bill credits based on the energy produced. The project utilizes battery storage, which is unique in our industry. Being part of a solar community is also a benefit, as if this system was on a person’s home, they would be responsible for insurance, maintenance, etc. with this project. In our scenario, WH takes care of it all. Another benefit is if/when a panel owner were to move, they can keep the panel as long as they are still living in WH service territory. There are other options as well—selling it to another member, or giving it away to a friend or family member.

JH: Any surprises (good or bad) along the way?

WH: We’ve had a lot of interest from community groups—that has been a nice surprise!

JH: Any words of wisdom for an electric cooperative or other entity looking at doing a similar community solar project?

WH: Be ready for a lot of questions and excitement from both members and the community.

See photos of the project from the very beginnings through construction and completion:

Watch a video of the solar panels being installed on the rails:

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