Q: What is a kilowatt (kW)?
A: A kilowatt is a measure of power, generally referenced when discussing an amount of energy being used at a point in time or to indicate a maximum capacity. For example, there is 172 kW DC of capacity installed at Second Chance CSG and 365 kW DC at North High CSG.
Q: What is a kilowatt-hour (kWh)?
A: A kilowatt-hour is a measure of energy. It is the amount of energy that 1kW of power produces over one hour. Each 1 kW of a community solar garden will produce over a thousand kWh every year, on average.
Q: If I join a community solar garden, will my house be powered by the energy produced by the system?
A: No, the energy that a community solar garden produces is metered and is fed into the general electric grid. By subscribing to a community solar garden, you are securing the right to sell a certain amount of the energy that the system produces each month. Once you subscriber, Xcel will start giving you bill credits on your monthly electric bills you already receive from them.
Q: How much money will I save each month?
A: It depends! The more subscriptions you get, the more you’ll save. Each subscription will cut your electric bill by roughly $11 every month. Combined with energy efficiency upgrades to your home, you could save hundreds of dollars every year with a community solar subscription.
Q: How many subscriptions can I get?
You are permitted to cover up to 120% of your home energy use. For most people, this means anywhere between 3 and 10 subscriptions. By taking your home or apartment annual electricity use and dividing by 1000, you can get a rough estimate of the number of subscriptions you are eligible for.
Q: Are there any requirements to be able to join?
A: The only two requirements to join one of Minneapolis Climate Action’s community solar gardens are: 1.) You live in Hennepin County, or a county adjacent to Hennepin County, AND 2.) You are already an Xcel customer. We do NOT require any credit checks, we have no income requirement, and we don’t require any money down up-front.
Q: How much does the electricity cost?
A: The electricity cost is .085/kWh and goes up 2.0% annually. The bill credit from Xcel for the solar energy produced by the array is .0940/kWh and goes up 2.25% annually.
Q: What if I move (within Minnesota)?
A: Not a problem. If you are staying within Hennepin County or moving to a county that borders Hennepin (Anoka, Ramsey, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Wright, or Shelburne) and maintain Xcel Energy as your energy supplier, we will transfer the subscription to your new address and you continue earning the credits for your subscriptions. In the case that you do have to move, please notify us at least 30 days prior to the move to ensure no interruption to your bill credits.
Q: We are already signed up for WindSource with Xcel. Can we do WindSource and a community solar garden?
A: You can continue to pay for WindSource and subscribe to a community solar garden.
Q: What protections are in place to ensure that energy prices won't dramatically change to be greater than they would be without the shares? I.e., to ensure that subscriber bills won’t be higher than they were without the shares.
A: The rates are guaranteed for 25 years according to the rate table in the subscription agreement and order form. CSG subscriptions have no impact on utility rates, since the utility customer is still buying 100% of their electricity from Xcel.
Q: What if the solar array breaks?
A: Our community solar gardens are insured in the case that it needs to be rebuilt due to disaster. Downtime, if any, from a catastrophic event, would impact the array production for the period of interruption. Routine maintenance is done on a regular basis, or if any interruption to the garden's production is detected.
Q: What happens to the array after 25 years?
A: The solar panels are warranted for 25 years and contracted with Xcel for 25 years, but are likely to last longer than that. After 25 years the system can be removed and recycled, or left in place under a new structure. That will be up to the subscribers and the solar garden operator.
Q: What happens if the garden administrators bail/go under within the 25-year period?
A: Minneapolis Climate Action is the Garden Administrator, has been in operation for 13 years and has plans to expand its CSG footprint over the coming years. But irrespective of MCA’s track record, the array itself is self-funding and has been designed to produce sufficient income to pay for system maintenance. The panels have been installed on a new roof with a 20+ year warranty and the panels are warranted for 25 years.
Q: What happens if Xcel changes their incentive structure for community solar gardens?
A: There are laws, regulations and policies to protect against Xcel doing this. Our Garden operates under a statutory and contract framework that provides as close to a rate guarantee as is possible. There may be changes in the solar garden program in future years, but the changes will not affect CSGs already in operation and under contract.
Q: Are the federal incentives/credits allocated to subscribers?
A: The tax credits are “syndicated” and sold to a third-party investor as part of the financing package used to build the CSG. In most cases, the investor pays 80-90% of the tax credit value upfront for the right to use the full value of the tax credits over time. The subscription rate leveraged all the noted benefits and provides the best possible rate that we can offer.
Q: What if the garden is already full?
A: We encourage you to join our community solar garden waitlist. By joining the waitlist, we may reach out to you if space opens up in our current gardens. We will also prioritize those on the waitlist for any future Minneapolis Climate Action community solar garden developments.
Q: What are the advantages of community solar over regular rooftop solar?
A: With community solar, you do not need to install a solar panel system on your place of residence. This means it does not cost you any money up front, and you are not responsible for any maintenance, upkeep, or damages to the system. There is also the added benefit that renters are able to participate in community solar, which would not be possible with rooftop solar.
Q: Do I need anything installed at my house for this to work for me?
A: No, the electricity generated from the solar panels does not go directly to your
home or apartment. Instead, it is metered and tracked as it goes into the electric grid and you are credited on your Xcel Energy bill each month according to how many subscriptions you have and how much energy the community solar garden produces.
Q: How long after I subscribe will I receive benefits?
A: Once you subscribe, you will start receiving credits on your electricity bill the very next month, provided the garden is currently connected to the grid.
Q: Do you get a separate bill for your community solar garden subscription payment?
A: You own the energy that you buy as a subscriber. Your community solar garden credit shows up on your Xcel bill. You pay your Xcel bill as usual.
If you have Pay Up Front subscriptions, MCA bills you once a year for your Operations and Maintenance fee of $47.00 (with a 2% annual increase) per kilowatt-dc of subscription.
If you have Pay As You Go subscriptions, MCA bills you monthly for the Project Procurement and Administration Fee (“PPA”) fee of $0.09/kWh, with an annual escalation of 2%. The bill credit you receive from Xcel is $0.1090/kWh and increases 2.5% a year.
Q: Can I make a tax-deductible donation for the purpose of giving a low income community member a Pay Up Front subscription?
Yes. You can make a tax deductible donation to our dedicated Community Solar Garden Fund.
Q: Even though we purchase the subscriptions, do they belong to Xcel (Northern States Power Company)?
A: The subscriptions belong to the subscriber.
Q. Are there any tax implications for joining a community solar garden?
A: No, as a subscriber there are no tax implications.
Q: What happens if I go over 120% of usage?
A: Even if your usage goes up, you are benchmarked by your original usage report. Even if you get more energy efficient, you still keep the full credit that covers even more of your bill! IF your credits exceed what you owe to Xcel, your credit will roll forward each month, and you will be sent a check by mail from Xcel once a year.
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