Rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to a third of Minnesotans. As member-owned utility companies, rural electric cooperatives have the potential of providing innovative and customer-focused services. One great example of this, involving solar, comes from a cooperative in the northwestern part of the state.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC), based in Pelican Rapids, provides an innovative program for its member-owners who are interested in going solar. LREC staff will design, install, and maintain solar arrays for interested members. The solar arrays are ground mounted and angled to 240 degrees (southwest).
“We started this program because there is an untapped solar resource, [and we] were looking at how we could reduce demand in the evening,” said Amelinda Hendrickx, Energy Services Engineer with LREC. She calls the 240-degree angle the “sweet spot”. She said these solar PV systems will allow LREC to meet more of the summer electricity needs with locally generated electricity, “especially on summer evenings in northern Minnesota, when the sun is up later into the evening”. The panels are able to generate more electricity in the late afternoon because they are angled toward the southwest. This aligns with the higher demand for electricity at that time, due to the heat of the summer day (more air conditioning) and people coming home from work.
The southwest angle provides a monetary benefit for member-owners as well. During the summer months, GoWest Solar systems receive a summer peak demand reduction credit. This can be as high as $63 per month, depending on the size of the solar system installed. LREC will purchase the excess electricity generated by GoWest Solar systems at the avoided wholesale energy rate, which is currently 5.9¢ per kWh. Additionally, any kWh that is generated by the solar PV system and used in the home represents more savings for the member-owner.
This program is a new offering by LREC, launched last summer. There is only one member-owner who was able to have the solar system installed before the end of the construction season in Minnesota. Hendrickx said she expects several other systems to be connecting this summer.
Learn more at: https://www.lrec.coop/products-service/solar/gowest-solar.