Co-op makes solar more appealing, easier

The Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association recently installed a first-of-its-kind 171-panel solar array on their campus in Rockford, Minn, along with sealed lead acid batteries to store and supply energy in the evening.

Solar alone reduces energy sales, he explained, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of generation and transmission needed during evening peak hours.

“The result is increased cost per-kilowatt hour for the rest of the members,” said Nikula. But now, the co-op can inject stored energy from the batteries during peak times to reduce those costs.

“This offsets the lost sales revenue, and the result is cost-neutral for the members,” said Nikula.

When the WH Solar Community comes online—most likely by the end of July—member-owners will also have an affordable and easy way to access renewable energy. Investors will receive a kilowatt-hour credit on their monthly electric bills.

The 32.5-kilowatt solar array is a hot commodity among co-op members: All 171 panels on the 60-by-80 foot installation were snapped up for about $900 apiece, including the battery storage. And the co-op has plans—and room—to build two more on its property, said Nikula.

The community model implemented by Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association makes the purchase of solar technology more appealing, allowing customers to purchase solar panels without the need to install or maintain them at home.

“One member bought 36 panels; that’s 6,840 watts,” said Nikula, noting that the second array is half sold. “Most of their power needs will be meet, and they’ll be 90 percent off the grid.”

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