Southeast Minnesota

Semcac saves money and advances their mission with solar lease-to-buy program

April 2022

In June of 2021 Semcac Community Action Agency began getting credits on their electric bill for power generated by a 37.5 kW name-plate solar PV array at their warehouse just outside of Rushford, MN.

Melissa Feine, weatherization program coordinator at Semcac shares that “the solar electric system will pay for itself in six or seven years and then all the energy savings will go toward advancing the mission of the organization.”

Semcac is a community action agency, a special kind of nonprofit created by legislation in 1964 to fight poverty. Semcac empowers and advocates for people to enhance their self-sufficiency and maximize community resources. The agency was established in 1966 and serves 12 counties in southeastern Minnesota with a variety of services like Head Start, Senior Dining, Meals on Wheels, food shelves, Rolling Hills Transit, housing, Energy Assistance, and Weatherization.

Learn more about Semcac

The solar array was installed on the roof of Semcac’s warehouse which, along with buses and agency vehicles, houses the offices and crews for their weatherization program.

Both Energy Assistance and Weatherization Assistance programs are largely federally funded and run through the Minnesota Department of Commerce. While community action agencies across the state, like Semcac, provide the services. The programs help income-eligible households pay their energy bills, as well as permanently reduce those bills by making homes more energy efficient.

Feine shared that in the first 10 months since coming on line, the solar installation has generated almost $5,500 in electricity savings for Semcac. This more than makes the annual payment and thus lowers the up-front cost. Semcac’s electricity utility, MiEnergy tracks all the output of the solar array and offsets usage by kilowatt hour on the monthly bill. Semcac gets a dollar credit for excess electricity over their usage at the site.

Image courtesy of Semcac.

Semcac made an initial payment of $30,000 on the $115,000 system. Over the next seven years, the energy savings will be used to make annual lease payments and a final payment. After that, Semcac will own the system. The solar array is likely to generate electricity for another 15 to 20 years and those savings will help reduce operating costs and increase Semcac's work in the community.

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