A 228-panel solar field located behind the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative offices just east of Wellington, began drawing power July 6 and customers can start tapping in July 23.
The panels are owned by Buckeye Power of Columbus, electrical provider to LMRE. Customers who choose to subscribe will only bear responsibility for power output, not the panels themselves.
Subscriptions will be available for one to five panels on one, five, 10, 15, and 20-year agreements.
Customers will be charged 10 cents for every kilowatt hour produced and a subscription to one panel will cost less than $2 per month. An agreement can be cancelled free of charge for three business days, after which a $50 administrative fee will be handed down.
Projected monthly output per panel ranges between a peak of 47 kilowatt hours in July to a low of 18 in December.
A five-panel subscription will generate an average of 200 kilowatt hours per month, or 15 to 20 percent of the average LMRE member’s monthly use. Power generated by the field will supplement LMRE’s coal-based energy.
“The cost of solar equipment is falling but it’s still very substantial,” said LMRE general manager Markus Bryant. “Outside of costs, there are other significant issues that homeowners and businesses will have to address when considering our equipment. Is your roof facing in the optimal direction? Is there shading or trees in the way?”
He said using a community space to generate solar power avoids those concerns and cuts costs by roughly half when compared to rooftop installation at individual sites.
“There are also up-front costs for maintenance when you do this yourself,” said Bryant. “Also, you have to make a certain amount of money to take advantage of any tax credits. Our panels are situated so they get the maximum exposure to the sun at all times.”
A subscription will result in a “small net increase” to customers’ monthly bills, Bryant said. An example of a summer bill with a five-panel agreement showed a $3.63 increase and a winter example tacked on $4.53.
What are the benefits of subscribing if it doesn’t lead to any cost savings?
“We have some members who want solar energy because they believe it’s cleaner and better for the environment,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to let members choose to participate in solar energy without the rest of the members subsidizing it.”
LMRE’s panels are part of a $4 million state wind initiative called Our Solar, which includes 23 of Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.