Springfield City Utilities Solar Initiative

Posted: 10/14/2014

Did you know that solar energy is available in the Springfield City Utilities service area without spending up to $25,000 on solar panels and other equipment?

The City Utilities Solar Initiative took effect October 1st and the hope is to move many Springfield residences to a conservative approach to energy consumption. While pre-enrollment started back in August, some spots still remain available. But now is the time to sign up, as spots are limited for the time being until the program really takes off.

How it Works
CU has installed a solar farm East of the McCartney Generating Station. The farm is owned by Strata Solar and CU is under a 25 year purchase power agreement with the owner, with the option to buy. This adds solar power to CU’s current power generation portfolio, along with natural gas, landfill gas and coal. The output from the solar farm generates enough power for over 900 homes.

CU customers who sign up (which could be anyone from a home owner to someone living in an apartment complex and even businesses, as long as you are in the CU service area) pay an extra fee to have solar power. Basically, it’s a way for the environmentally conscious to participate in eco-friendly way to produce energy.

So, the mechanics of it might be a bit confusing at first, but here’s the gist of it: customers subscribe to kilowatt (kW) blocks of energy. You can get a minimum of one block, up to 200 blocks. One kW block produces an average of 162 kWh per month, and, at CU’s current rates, would average out as $7.67 per month for that block, which would be in addition to your regular monthly bill. Of note, the amount of energy produced depends upon the season and weather conditions – for example, a rainy day obviously produces less solar energy, as do the shorter days in the winter compared to the long days of summer.

To best determine what this would cost you, have your CU bill handy and utilize the Solar Calculator on the CU website.

Why Do It
Tree Hugger arguments aside, you might be wondering why you would want to pay extra to use solar power through CU. Well, consider that solar power provides energy reliability. The sun rises; the sun sets. These are facts no one can dispute. There is also security in the fact that no one country can monopolize solar power over another – we won’t have to fight over it – yey for energy independence!

Additionally, the rates should stay relatively the same over a long term because there isn’t ever going to be a shortage of sunshine. In fact, when you sign up for the solar program with CU, you lock your rate in for 20 years. And, the management of solar energy creates twice as many jobs as coal energy management (and more than twice as much as natural gas).

And let’s talk about those rates. Yes, it costs more than your current utility bill to add solar energy. However, should you decide to install your own solar energy, it would be far more expensive. Do you think my number of $25 grand is high? Not according to Sunrun, a solar power company dedicated to helping families install solar panels on their home. Let’s look at the numbers, shall we? Sunrun says:

Depending on the location and design of your system, the typical home installation ranges from 3 to 7 kilowatts and costs between $18,000 to $40,000 to purchase. Solar panels: About a third of the cost of a residential photovoltaic system comes from the cost of solar panels, which can cost around $4,500-$12,000.

What it comes down to is, if you’re interested in helping the planet and local economy, and don’t have upwards of  $40,000 to install a system as efficient as the one CU built, then CU’s access is the way to go.