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Vernon Electric Cooperative Becomes First Wisconsin Utility to Construct Community-Owned Solar

Vernon Electric Cooperative
Vernon Electric Cooperative (VEC), a member-owned cooperative utility serving southwestern Wisconsin, is bringing community-owned solar to Wisconsin. In partnership with national community solar developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC), VEC will provide any member in its service territory the opportunity to own individual panels in a new locally-sited, utility-scale solar PV array. This is the first community-owned solar facility under construction in the state of Wisconsin.

The Vernon Electric Community Solar Farm, a 305 kW, 1001-panel clean power facility will be built at VEC’s headquarters in Westby, Wis. Through CEC’s model, any residential or commercial member in the VEC service area can purchase panels in the shared farm—as few as one or enough to completely offset the energy demands of a home or business. Credit for the power produced will be provided directly on their monthly utility bills.

“We are excited to begin construction of the first community-owned solar program in the state of Wisconsin,” said Vernon Electric’s CEO, Joe McDonald. “We know this will be a valuable local energy solution for our members.”

VEC in partnership with CEC anticipates breaking ground in April and the solar farm is expected to be operational by early summer. Given the significant interest already seen from the community, it is possible that the array will sell out before construction is complete, as has been the case in several other states.

“CEC is privileged to be Vernon Electric’s partner for this project, and we’re enthusiastic about helping solar grow in Wisconsin in a way that makes sense to members and the Cooperative,” said Paul Spencer, CEC’s founder and president.  Sign-up begins at VEC’s Annual Meeting March 22, 2014.

Market grows exponentially as barriers removed. The fast growing distributed generation model pioneered by CEC allows any customer in a participating utility territory, including renters, those with shaded roofs, and people with modest incomes, the opportunity to own panels in a shared solar PV facility, scalable to a single panel, without having to build a stand-alone facility on their home or business.

The utility sector is quickly embracing the model because it is delivering reliable, long-term, in-network clean power at reasonable rates, paid for by participating ratepayers, that contributes to a utility’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) outside the limitations of net-metering.

Customer value driven from solar ownership. CEC’s community solar model focuses on solar ownership because it delivers the best value for customers. These facilities are more efficient to build, much simpler to sell, and deliver a significantly faster payback and total return for individual owners than most other renewable energy solutions.

Solar lease programs, for example, still require installing equipment on a roof that must be maintained by the homeowner and monthly lease payments often escalate faster than energy prices.

For more information on the Vernon Electric Community Solar Farm, or to reserve your solar panels, please call (800) 447-5051 or visit www.vernoncommunitysolar.com.