Information on how Sleepy Eye residents can invest in solar power.

Last month, I talked about the basics of a Community Solar Program and the fact that Sleepy Eye through the Central Municipal Power Agency and Services (CMPAS-pronounced compass) is participating in a larger solar farm near Owatonna. We are also installing a solar array on the roof of the power plant. CMPAS is a joint action agency headquartered in Blue Earth and Eden Prairie. It is made up of 12 municipal members, each owning a municipal electric utility. Six of its 12 members are participating in this community solar program. Last month I didn’t have pricing information or other details to share. Today I do. Last week the six participating members sat down and put the final details of the program together. For fluidity and marketing and other reasons, they wanted all six cities to put forth the same program. A few of the details are as follows:

Initially we had considered an option of subscribing on a monthly basis but we decided to require annual subscriptions. The cost of a solar panel will be $42.50 per panel per year paid upfront at the time when you subscribe.

One panel will produce 380 watts of electricity at full sun. Over the course of a year a single panel should produce approximately 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Subscribers will receive a financial credit on their monthly bills for the output of their panel. The total resulting financial credit for a year is estimated to be approximately $30/year (assuming 500 kilowatt-hours per year valued at six cents per kilowatt-hour).

An average home in Sleepy Eye uses approximately 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year. Based on this, it would take 18 panels to produce the total energy needs of an average home in Sleepy Eye.

Too many times I read where a person or a company “saved money on their electric bill” by installing solar. Certainly, if you are producing energy from a solar panel, you are using less conventional energy from your utility, but the fixed costs of the solar infrastructure must be paid for as well. People participate in or build solar energy arrays for many reasons, but saving money isn’t or shouldn’t be one of them. The price of solar panels has come down quite a bit in the last couple years, but it is still more expensive to build solar than it is to buy electricity from your utility. Even with the help of the economy of scales of the Owatonna project, solar is still more expensive than conventional energy. The benefits of solar are its green attributes.

It is difficult to list all the details of this program in a few words here. If you are interested in learning more about community solar in Sleepy Eye, please call the utility office and schedule a meeting. We look forward to hearing from you.