One solar installation leads to another for shop

By Ben Delman on March 15, 2018

Chisago specialty food shop Eichtens Cheese & Bison has served up cheeses, meats, and other items for more than four decades. The family-owned store has been solar for the past six. The store looked into solar when they learned how affordable it could be.

They had a 40kW system installed. This system off-set one third of the building’s energy use. The owners said with the available incentives, the system paid for itself in four years. “We’ve been able to save money on our electric bill and are thrilled to be producing our own clean energy,” said Joe and Mary Eichten.

As it turned out, this would be just the start of solar for the store.

In 2016, the company that installed Eichten’s system reached out to them about hosting a community solar system. Minnesota is a national leader in community solar. Community solar projects enable participants to benefit from solar generation, even if the physical system is not on their property. This allows people who may not have a good roof for solar, or who rent, to go solar as well.

“We are passionate supporters of solar energy and would like for as many people to take advantage of solar as possible, but we understand that not everyone has the ability to install solar themselves,” the Eichtens said.

A 5 MW system was installed on 22 acres of the store’s land leased to the installer. This lease has provided the store with an additional income stream, while benefiting the surrounding community. The local school district and senior center were the main investors in the project, so they are able to benefit from solar as well.