Seven-County Metro

Solar Twin Cities group buy program empowers metro communities

181 residents & business owners engaged

Solarize it!

 

For the first time, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) brought its innovative group solar purchase model to the Twin Cities.

The MREA empowers homeowners with information and mobilizes homeowners to purchase solar energy together at group rates. The Solar Twin Cities Group Buy Program offset more than half a million pounds of Carbon and engaged 181 community residents and business owners through Solar Power Hour events across the 7-county Twin Cities Metro!

 

The program’s success is due to the fact that it takes much of the guesswork out of installing solar. Participants get a better understanding of how solar works in general and they can choose to continue exploring their options with a vendor who has been pre-selected by a panel of solar experts which gives them additional peace of mind. Even if they decide not to pursue installation with the selected vendor, they still gain knowledge about solar installation that they can apply when they are ready to make the investment.

Jennifer Hassebroek, Senior Community Development Specialist with City of Oakdale

How did the Solar Twin Cities program work?

Property owners are looking at solar to reduce their carbon emissions from fossil fuels, reduce costs, protect against rising utility prices, and achieve a measure of energy freedom. A lack of education prevents homeowners from achieving these goals. The MREA empowers homeowners with informational Solar Power Hour events and an incentivized group solar buy program.

The Solar Twin Cities Group Buy Program included 15 Solar Power Hour events in communities including City of Eden Prairie, Oakdale, Maplewood, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Richfield, Roseville, St Louis Park, White Bear Lake, and the City of Woodbury.

During the events, participants learned four basic building blocks of solar energy:

  1. Solar market trends
  2. Basic components of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems
  3. The PV solar installation process
  4. Economic incentives and benefits 

In addition, participants were offered a $.30/watt rebate off of their system if they joined a group purchase of high value, low cost solar energy. Across these events, more than 35 participants were inspired to go solar in 2019.

grow solar

I am very thankful to have been enrolled in the Solar Twin Cities program this last year. Being part of the program has made installing solar more cost-effective. The contractor selected for the program has done a fantastic job of customer service from communication, scheduling, work quality. What a great crew, you know that they all enjoy the work they do.

Tom McDougall, Minneapolis Resident & Program Participant

What did MREA learn during this program?

As a new organization in a large market (seven counties!), the MREA found promotion to be the greatest challenge. Solar energy is a high-cost investment of $7-43k, and Solar Power Hours compete with many events in the summer season they were held during! MREA overcame the challenge to meet their goal of more than 200kW of solar energy signed up!

Three key lessons were learned in the process:

  1. Plan and promote events well in advance! Some of the Solar Power Hour events were added through the season rather than ahead of time, so they weren’t promoted equally. Know the location, date, and time before launching to the public, and leave time for three to four weeks of promotion before the first event. 
  2. Make sure to use the right promotional channels! The MREA used their website, Facebook page, and member list, the Solar Twin Cities website, CERTs calendar of events, Nextdoor, and community newsletters and Facebook and Twitter posts. 
  3. Get volunteers involved! Volunteers can boost awareness by networking and tabling at local events. 

The MREA sought strong community connection. By design, the MREA received active support from municipalities for (1) Hosting Solar Power Hours in city hall council chambers or community centers (13 of 15 events); and (2) Promoting Solar Power Hours via websites, Facebook and Twitter posts, community newsletters, the CERTs calendar of events, and Nextdoor with the help of community staff. In addition, the MREA reached out to various environmental non-profit organizations to assist with outreach via their networks, including: Alliance for Sustainability, MN350.org, Sierra Club, and others.

Renewable energy, including rooftop solar, is an important part of building a cleaner, greener future for our community. Group purchasing programs help reduce costs for participants, making it possible for more of our neighbors to access the benefits—including cost savings—of clean energy. I hope to see more opportunities like this in Ward 11 and across Minneapolis.

Jeremy Schroeder, Ward 11 Minneapolis Council Member

A great program with an award-winning video

The Solar Twin Cities program won the 2019 Minnesota Solar Video Contest with their animation about their program. Check it out!

Project Snapshot

 
  • Technology: Solar electric
  • Metro CERT Seed Grant: $2,500
  • Total Project Cost: $33,150
  • Other Funds: Solar developer’s in-kind / cost-share
  • Project Team: Eric Rehm, Peter Murphy, & Nick Hylla (MREA); Marty Morud, Eric Morud, Caleigh Hensley, Jeff Williams, & Jason Kaasovic (TruNorth Solar)
  • People Involved and Reached: 226
  • Annual Energy Generated: 305,150 kWh