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Solar can provide savings for the agriculture community

Lead Summary

The agriculture community will see a savings of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour by going solar, according to Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric General Manager Syd Briggs.
The co-op has constructed a 250-panel community solar garden. Steele-Waseca member-owners may subscribe to a portion of the solar garden and receive renewable energy credits on their account. 
“This will lower their cost of electricity; especially those in our ag community that live on farms and are looking for ways to cut back,” Briggs said. 
“As our price goes up, they should start saving even more as years go on.”
As an innovative way to lower the cost to participate in community solar, Steele-Waseca has launched The Sunna (pronounced SOO-nah) Project which pairs a reduced price panel subscription with participation in Steele-Waseca’s 16-Hour Storage Water Heating Program.
Briggs said participating in the solar garden locks the purchases in at 12 cents a kilowatt-hour over a 20-year period. 
Average residents get charged about 12 ½ cents a kilowatt-hour.
To date, an estimated 26 percent or 66 panels have been pre-sold. Most of the Steele-Waseca ag load is farmhouses or residents associated with agriculture. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the ag community could have the opportunity to be involved with solar energy.
Briggs said Steele-Waseca customers directed us this way. “A lot of members were putting up panels on their own,” he said.
Three years ago, the co-op started researching going into doing community solar. It included looking at different sites and ways to structure it. The final outcome was the 250-panel community solar garden located on the west side of the facility in Owatonna.
The cost to buy a panel is approximately $1,200. Briggs estimates the $1,200 investment should return 2 percent a year on the average. The timeline is to have all solar panels subscribed to in the first year. 
“If it happens faster, we can do another phase and do more panels,” Briggs said. “If it takes much longer than year, we know we have just the right amount. We will stop at that.”

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