What is your role in the organization? Manager of member services. I oversee member relations, energy efficiency programs, energy audits, media relations, community activities, marketing, and Boone Electric satellite systems.
How did Boone Electric’s interest in utilizing solar power begin? It began with the people we’re controlled by: our members. Members had continually expressed interest in the addition of a solar energy option. The board of directors followed with surveys gauging interest in more renewable choice options. The board determined there was enough member interest to go ahead and implement a community solar project.
Is it more expensive? Solar energy does come at a premium added cost. While the photons from the sun are free, the cost of the technology and maintenance needed to capture them is not. Solar energy costs more than traditional sources of energy. The output per panel is expected to average 41 kilowatt hours per month; at this average, the added cost is $2.65 per panel per month. The average output in the winter and summer is expected to be 24 and 52 kilowatt hours, respectively. The premium cost for winter and summer outputs will range from $1.54 to $3.35 per panel per month. The cost of a kilowatt hour from the solar farm is 15.95 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 9.5 cents for conventional power.
How have cooperative members reacted to this new offering? They’ve reacted positively to the new solar offering. Output from almost half of the 400 panels has been spoken for as of October 1.
What are the benefits? Subscribers are able to participate in renewable energy with no contract, commitment, or upfront costs. This is a great opportunity for co-op members who are unable to install solar at their residence. The cost for electricity from the solar farm is available for basically the same cost as a home-installed system. Subscribers are also able to cancel at any time with no penalty or additional fees.
What obstacles did Boone Electric overcome to achieve solar power? As a nonprofit cooperative, the greatest obstacle Boone Electric had to overcome in building the Community Solar Farm was the cost to build it. We were fortunate to partner with Shelter Insurance as a tax equity investor. They took advantage of all the tax credits to help keep costs down per kilowatt hour.
What’s the next clean energy project for Boone Electric? The greenest energy is the energy never consumed. An area that we are very proactive in is energy efficiency. Boone Electric has returned $3,504,479 in rebates to members since 2008. Programs like home performance with Energy Star and dual fuel and ground source heat pumps have been successful in helping members save energy and money. In 2015 alone, the result of these programs on members’ savings equated to 1,791,093 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. We always look first to ways of improving energy efficiency so savings can repeat year after year.
How can people utilize this solar power? Members of Boone Electric can purchase the output from one or more panels and offset their energy use at home. Community Solar is a great option for members who wish to use solar energy but are unable to install panels at their home.
What are the challenges of utilizing solar power? Solar power is a varying power source. It varies at different times of day and in different seasons. It’s strongest during summer months and in the middle of the day. Other parts of the day and year, it’s not producing as much. With no production at night, we must rely on our coal and natural gas generative assets to assure reliable power for our members. The total output from the solar farm and its 400 panels is anticipated to be 197,335 kilowatt hours per year. With an average consumption of 1,140 kilowatt hours per member per month, if the energy could be stored and distributed when needed, the solar farm could supply enough energy for about 14 homes.
How has the growth of Boone County affected your organization? Even with continued growth in Boone County and an increase in electric services, the demand for electricity has not really been affected. Our energy efficiency programs have played a large role in that.
What’s something people might not know about Boone Electric? Boone Electric is a not-for-profit cooperative that is member-owned and member-controlled. It was the first rural electric cooperative to be formed in Missouri, in 1936.