April 2022 Solar Project Update
The Solar project planned for the field north of the church has reached a standstill. Ultimately the plan is to provide green energy to the church while also saving money used to purchase electricity from the grid. The cost savings aspect is causing the current standstill. The crux of the problem is related to the current utility cost structure and how solar is able to offset those costs.
The basic premise behind a standard net metering scenario is that solar produces enough energy to offset building needs. Any excess generation is then credited at the retail rate to future energy bills. In this scenario every kWh generated by the solar will be competing against the retail rate of energy.
However, because we work with a rural co-operative utility (Corn Belt), net metering is not available for a system of our size. With a co-op, any solar power used by the church would offset draw from the utility and therefore compete against the retail rate. Any excess solar power we produce, but do not use, will be sold back to the grid at wholesale rates. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Corn Belt uses a tiered rate structure, which means that the solar energy we produce would be competing with the lowest cost tier almost entirely. So any excess power we would need to purchase would be purchased at premium rate tiers. As a result, the church would not gain any discount on energy, even though the solar supply price is less than the grid price.
There are possible remedies to this situation that we are working on but will take time as legislative rules are put in place and/or expected market changes that may positively impact the way the solar system can provide benefit. The first possible remedy is the utilization of storage. Some new programs are expected to support the implementation of batteries to store power. In this scenario we could store the power onsite and deploy that power to compete solely against the higher retail rates. The second possible remedy is simply market changes that increase the cost of retail electricity such that solar could more effectively compete at all levels of the retail spectrum.