Updated: February 01, 2021 06:24 PM
Created: February 01, 2021 09:57 AM
A new solar co-op just launched in Duluth in a effort to get more people in the community to go green at an affordable price.
Co-ops are part of a new movement in going solar, where a group of neighbors get together to negotiate a bulk purchase of solar panels and save money. The co-op is facilitated by the nonprofit Solar United Neighbors, which helps co-op members navigate the process and also brings more education on solar co-op's.
The new solar co-op which launched last week, is open to residents and businesses in the city of Duluth and surrounding St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Carlton and Pine Counties. They are looking to get a total of 50 members to join. There's currently 21 people signed up online.
Solar United Neighbors has hosted 11 solar co-ops in Minnesota since 2017. According to the group’s estimates, the 76 Minnesota homes and businesses that now have solar panels through its co-ops represent: 544.2 kilowatts of solar power, $1.8 million invested in the local economy, and 20 million pounds of lifetime carbon offsets.
"It has become more affordable. There are incentives like a federal tax incentive, that's a tax rebate of 26%. There are rebates from Minnesota Power or utility," said Bret Pence, the Greater Minnesota director for Minnesota interfaith Power and Light. They are partnering with the co-op.
Pence explained how net metering works.
"The solar grid on a person's house is tied to the larger grid that we're all on. When it's night and the sun's not shining, it still turns a light switch on and off and the lights work because the grid is attached to the house so when someone is not producing, the utility is sending them electricity but when they are producing and producing more than they need, that's going back to the grid and they get paid for that," said Pence.
Duluthian Matt Doyle jumped on the solar panel train back in 2014 due to his interest in helping the environment.
"I haven't had an electric bill since we put it in. Minnesota Power owes me a little money so the investment is being paid back. I bought an electric vehicle to partly use and take advantage of the solar investment. I charge my car the equivalent of about 75 cents a gallon for gas. The other part of the investment is knowing that I'm not producing pollution," said Doyle.
Doyle said he recommends people to look into going solar, especially in a group, which makes it more affordable.
"There's a lot more information available now. The cost has come down a lot just in the five years since we did it. The cost has come down at least a third. It's much more affordable. The incentives are still there, the tax incentives. By going together in a group they also get kind of a extra cost incentive because it makes it a little less expensive," said Doyle.
Jeff Corey of One Roof is working with the co-op to bring solar to every family in the Duluth region, including low-income families, which can help them save money on bills.
"It'll be a cost saving for them for their electricity so every little bit helps but even more than that I think a piece of it is just that they get to participate in doing their bit to help combat climate change," said Corey.
Corey said Solar United Neighbors approached One Roof to see if they were interested in helping to let some of their community land trust homeowners know about the program. They also had grant funds to help the community land trust homeowners participate to purchase solar panels for their homes.
Corey says people are excited to have this opportunity they usually wouldn't have and more importantly be part of a greater cause in reducing the carbon footprint. He said 20 households have signed up so far.
"We need to start doing more things to reverse the trends of climate change and solar power is something that many of us have the ability to take a look at doing to see if we can do our part to reduce electricity costs. This is just a way for One Roof to sort of do a small thing to participate in that and to help out," said Corey.
The co-op is having a virtual informational session tomorrow, Feb 2. at 6:30 p.m. for those interested in learning more about the co-op. You can register for the session here.
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