A 1.2-megawatt solar array will be built this year in Minnesota near the intersection of Blue Earth County Road 69 and Highway 169/60 southwest of the city, with subscriptions available to those living in apartments, mobile home park occupants, and individuals with low credit scores.
Community solar garden subscribers generally pay a monthly fee to the community solar garden developer. In return, they own a share of the solar array equivalent to up to 120% of the homeowner’s historical electricity consumption. As the subscriber’s share of the array produces electricity, the power is fed into Xcel Energy’s electrical grid. Xcel then credits the subscriber for the energy production, offsetting a portion of the subscriber’s regular Xcel electricity bill.
During the long days of summer when solar arrays are most productive, they often generate more electricity than the subscriber is consuming in their home. In that instance, the subscriber’s entire monthly Xcel bill is erased and solar credits are banked to offset part of the monthly bills in winter months when the arrays are less productive.
The popularity of the subscriptions can be attributed to the fact that, on average, Xcel pays out more in credits over the course of a year than it does in subscription fees to the developer of the community solar farm. So, in addition to supporting a green energy source, there is a financial benefit for the company.
A 2020 solar garden near Janesville will serve as the blueprint for Cooperative Energy Futures’ new solar garden in Mankato. That solar garden, as well as the planned one, which will have many more subscribers in Mankato and throughout Blue Earth County, were created in collaboration with the city. The civic center complex in Mankato serves as a backup subscriber for the power generated by the CEF solar gardens.