Resident shares experience subscribing to community solar garden

Kim Norton is currently a member of the Rochester, MN Rochester Energy Commission. Kim and her husband Randy have recently subscribed to the Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) Solar Choice community solar garden to reduce their use of fossil fuels while powering their electric vehicles. Chris Meyer with CERTs asked Kim to share her experience signing up to RPU’s community solar garden.

RPU Solar Choice is made available through the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which has contracted to buy electricity from a 5 megawatt solar PV garden near Owatonna, MN. The solar array is powering several other Solar Choice programs for SMMPA member utilities (such as Austin Utilities SolarChoice). The RPU Solar Choice program is accepting subscriptions through the end of December 2017. More information and applications are available at the RPU Website

Why did you decide to subscribe to the RPU Solar Choice project?

Kim Norton: My husband and I have been interested in solar for some time as a response to our concerns over the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, but found our home less suited to solar panels than we had hoped. The Community Solar Garden / Solar Choice option allowed us to invest in a clean energy option that allowed us to offset the additional energy we use as dual electric vehicle owners! (We already utilized the REC credit, but this also sends a signal to RPU that it’s time to push SMMPA to invest in solar.) We chose to purchase three panels this year and would consider expanding in the future.

What was the process like to subscribe?

Kim Norton: Simple! We had already attended one of the many classes on the subject, but we didn’t register at that time. I dropped in at the RPU office and in about 15 minutes had all the info I needed, the form filled out and on it’s way for approval. An electronic signature on the final form was the last step.

How did you decide how much solar to get?

Kim Norton: The staff there helped me figure out the amount of electricity our two electric vehicles utilized each month and I purchased accordingly. We chose to pay the total over a years time, which will be partially offset by the reduction in electricity use each month.

What has the impact been on your energy bill?

Kim Norton: The panels are $650 each and we purchased three. Over the year we will have added $162.50 to our monthly bill, but then after that every bill will just have the kWh reduction reflected for the next 11 years.

What would you tell a friend if they asked about community solar gardens?

Kim Norton: Solar gardens are a great way for people who have homes unsuitable for solar but are interested in protecting the environment for future generations to add clean energy to the grid for a reasonable price until RPU’s contract with SMMPA expires. At that time, I hope there will be more solar gardens available for actual purchase that can reduce our overall electric costs using clean energy solutions.

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