First community solar projects getting launched

  • Article by: David Shaffer , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2013 - 2:27 PM

If you don’t have a sunny rooftop, solar energy developers offer an alternative — a share of a community solar garden.

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ruphinaJul. 18, 1311:11 PM

I'd be awful careful of anyone other than your own utility building one. Who gets the upfront tax credit? Who is responsible for upkeep? who is carrying insurance against storm damage (if even available). Is the installer using your cash only and none of their own? If the builder/operator of the co-op isn't likely to take the same financial hit you do when things go wrong, you are taking a huge chance. Bill G.

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sek2undrstndJul. 18, 1311:30 PM

ruphina "If the builder/operator of the co-op isn't likely to take the same financial hit you do when things go wrong, you are taking a huge chance"...... Calm down Bill. I took a big chance when I drove to work and back today yet somehow I mustered the courage to do it. Thankfully, community solar is safer than driving.

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i35splitJul. 19, 13 5:42 AM

I would love to find a respectable company to give me a quote to put panels on my roof. All new residential construction should be required to have solar panels if the back of the house has the appropriate sun exposure

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motJul. 19, 13 6:08 AM

ruphina, instead of casting doubts about solar, have you looked in to what the energy cost would be from new gas, coal, or nuke plants? Since most of the centralized fleet of power stations are nearing the end of their design life everyone should be aware of the cost of power from any new construction power plants. Do a little research and solar looks like a winner for many reasons.

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davehougJul. 19, 13 7:30 AM

Utilities have a direct role in solar gardens because they must meter the electricity and credit the solar output to subscribers’ bills. - - - - AND because MN law says they HAVE to regardless of how much more expensive it is. Same setup in Arizona is less pricey than the same setup in MN. Nobody writes songs how our 'skies are not cloudy all day'.

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davehougJul. 19, 13 7:32 AM

Just be sure to know IF it all goes bad (hail, wind, change in subsidies, change in laws) WHO is on the hook.

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RankenFyleJul. 19, 13 7:33 AM

This is only going to expand. The carbon footprint is markedly less than fossil fuels and it can tie in to the existing urban electrical grid. Getting the MAC to put them on the terminal and hangar roofs and MTC to put them on their garages and bus shelter roofs would be a nice step. The DNR has several locations with the 7th largest solar installation in the state having just gone online at their New Ulm headquarters.

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swmnguyJul. 19, 13 7:35 AM

"ruphina": Your questions are legitimate, and very easily answered. It's no different from any other building project with joint partners. You form a legal cooperative entity; probably the simplest type of corporation. The co-op gets the tax credits. The co-op gets the insurance. The insurance is just basic property insurance. The co-op raises money per its terms, and pays for it. The installer is a contractor, like a roofer or gutter guy or anybody else.

Really, Bill, if you and your pals went in together to build a garage, it would be the same exact thing.

One thing that throws many people is the fact that you actually can build, own and operate a power-generating facility without having an enormous external corporate entity involved. Petroleum, coal, nuclear, hydro; all are very complicated and require expensive technicians and procedures to maintain. Solar and wind do not. Build them, have a normal service arrangement like you would for a car (except far less frequent), and use your energy. It's really that simple.

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rarmstrongJul. 19, 13 7:37 AM

Not so very long ago, the governing powers decreed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then, along came Copernicus, a "geocentric denier," to prove that reality disagreed with the decree. Today, the governing powers decreee that cheap, safe and reliable electricity can be obtained from the sun . . .

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swmnguyJul. 19, 13 7:41 AM

"Just be sure to know IF it all goes bad (hail, wind, change in subsidies, change in laws) WHO is on the hook."

If it's hail or wind, your insurance provider is on the hook. Just like if your roof is damaged by hail or wind.

Subsidies don't change retroactively. Once the deal is financed, it's done.

And every increase in electrical rates shrinks the weight of those subsidies and brings forward the break-even date for Return on Investment. Even counting all subsidies, solar projects are breaking even in 10 years; with 10 to 15 years of nearly expense-free operation beyond that break-even date. Oil, gas, coal and nuclear projects almost never count all subsidies, so it's hard to tell what the true costs are; besides, those technologies require far more maintenance than solar.

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