A 228-panel solar field was officially unveiled to Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative customers this past Thursday in a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Since the field began producing electricity at the end of July, 47 LMRE customers have signed on to every panel with most choosing 10-year agreements covering five panels.
The site, located behind LMRE’s offices at 22898 West Rd., has produced 22,391 kilowatt hours of power since going online, which according to the cooperative offsets 33,635 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and could power a 400-watt refrigerator for over 13 years.
As he walked a group of customers through, general manager Markus Bryant said the company has received commendations on the field from both the Ohio House and Senate.
“It was quite an interesting project watching them put this all together,” he said. “With all of the stone we have out here, this is a really stable structure in the event of high winds.”
Customers are only responsible for the panels’ energy output with actual hardware being owned by LMRE’s electrical provider, Buckeye Power of Columbus.
LMRE was exempted from state regulations passed in 2008 that require energy companies to work toward acquiring 12.5 percent of their power from renewables and to cut fossil fuel consumption by 22 percent before 2027. That exemption came with an agreement that LMRE would put together its own renewable program, Bryant said.
The panels are part of a $4 million statewide initiative called Our Solar that includes 23 of Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives.
“We told the state we could work on renewable energy projects that make sense to our cooperative and our members,” said Bryant. “We have a long history of working with our members on energy efficiency. It’s not something we had to be told to do.”
Subscriptions are available for one to five panels on one, five, 10, 15, and 20-year agreements.
Customers are 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.
In a summer presentation at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, it was estimated that a five-panel subscription would result in a $3.63 monthly net increase on bills during the summer and $4.53 in the winter.
Bryant said the Firelands Electric Cooperative is constructing its own solar field in New London and LMRE has left open the possibility of expanding its site if there’s demand for it.
“There’s a lot of open grass area around here so we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We own the land and we could double this field without it being a problem. That’s our hope but I can’t guarantee anything right now.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.