Berea Solar Farm

How do I sign up?

Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU) will accept reservations for panels starting October 29, 2012.  Full payment and a signed contract are required to reserve your panels.  Download a contract here.  Amber Whitaker will be accepting lease agreements and payments at the BMU Contractor’s Office, 200 Harrison Rd., Berea, KY 40403 during the weekday hours of 9:00-4:00. Please deliver your completed contract and check made payable to BMU to the BMU contractor’s office (to the right of the main customer service entrance.), or mail to:

Attn: Amber Whitaker
Berea Municipal Utilities
PO BOX 926
Berea, KY 40403-0926

(859) 986-4391
awhitaker@bereaky.gov

Background

Berea Municipal Utility (BMU), with support from the City and an EECBG grant, is establishing the Berea Solar Farm – arrays of photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity. The purpose of the Solar Farm is to provide BMU customers who want to invest in local solar generation an opportunity to do so. The program invites community members to come together in moving Berea toward a better energy future.

Customers will be invited to lease solar panels from two 66-panel arrays.  The one-time lease fee of $750 per panel covers a 25-year period.  In return, customers will receive credit every billing period for the electricity generated by their panels.  In this way participating customers gain access to solar generation at an excellent price.

Customers who choose not to participate will not be asked to subsidize those who do.

 Program Details

  • 25 year lease contract
  • A one-time $750 investment per 240 watt panel
  • Receive credit on your monthly bill for the electricity generated by your panels
  • Panels are located on BMU property with ideal orientation exposure to the sun
  • Monitor the Solar Farm’s production at anytime from the comfort of your home

The panels will be owned and maintained by BMU and located on city property with excellent orientation to the sun and no shading.  The program is ideal for customers who want local opportunities to invest in clean energy and

  • have homes, apartments or businesses – owned or rented – not well suited for solar installations due to directional orientation or shade

  • can’t afford the relatively large cost of installing an entire system on their property

  • do not want to undertake the responsibilities of ownership

  • are attracted to the idea of leasing panels and donating the billing credit to some other organization or person in the BMU service area – to a church or school, for example.

Another benefit of this panel-by-panel leasing approach is the ease of transferring credit for the electricity generated by leased panels.  In the event a participating homeowner or renter moves within BMU’s service territory, the billing credits can simply be transferred to the new location.

If the move is to a location outside the BMU service territory, the leaser would need to sell or donate the energy generated by the panels to a BMU customer.  If such a move involves selling a house, the house value could be enhanced to the extent that the panels serve increasingly to lower utility bills as coal-generated electricity rates increase over time.

Some may find it attractive to support a local non-profit in the BMU service territory – a school or church, for example – by leasing one or more panels and assigning the billing credit to that organization.

Some benefits of the Berea Solar Farm

  • Allows more people at all income levels to participate in solar energy options, regardless of site issues such as shade or directional orientation.
  • The program is self-sustaining and supported financially by only those customers who choose to participate
  • Participants get peace of mind for supporting renewable energy and receive credit  for the energy their panels generate
  • Participating customers gain access to solar generation at an excellent price
  • Whatever electricity is generated locally by the Berea Solar Farm means fewer dollars leaving the community to pay wholesale electric bills

How can you sign up?

Complete the “Berea Solar Partners Contract” form and return it with a check made out to BMU for the total amount due.  Each panel is $750.  You can pick up a contract form at the BMU office or download it from the utilities section of the new City website (http://www.bereautilities.com/ ).  There is also a link to the Berea Solar Farm on the City’s homepage that will take you to the downloadable contract form (http://bereaky.gov/).  For more information, see the website or call Ed Fortner or Kevin Howard at BMU.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to lease panels in the Berea Solar Farm?

The one-time cost of leasing each 240 watt panel for 25 years is $750.

How much of my electricity use will one panel cover?

One 240 watt solar panel produces approximately 25 kilowatt-hours per month on average, or about 300 kilowatts per year. The average residential customer uses an average of 1,250 kilowatt-hours per month. So if your household is average in electricity consumption, one panel would provide approximately 2.4% of your total.

You may want to think about how many panels you would need to offset some percentage of your electric usage.  For example, your household could set a goal to cover 50% of your electricity needs with solar energy over the next five years and invest in a few panels each year as your budget allows.

The best way to reduce the number of panels needed to cover your electric bill is to use energy as efficiently as possible. Please look into tips to save energy to help you lower your current electric bill. After all, the cheapest, most environmentally friendly energy is the energy we never use!

Will this make any difference in the way my electric meter works?

No.  Because the panels will be installed on BMU’s property, they will not affect your meter reading at all. You will be billed for your normal electric usage and then receive a credit on your monthly statement for the energy generated by your panels during the previous month.

How long will it take to pay back my investment in Berea Solar Farm panels?

Of course it depends on how fast electricity rates increase.  At current BMU residential rates, it is anticipated that one 240 watt panel will produce a little over $18 worth of electricity in a year.  That’s about 2.4% of the $750 lease-fee investment for one panel.

Assuming a 5% average annual increase in Berea’s electric rates, the payback should be realized in approximately 23 years.

Solar seems expensive and doesn’t appear to have a very good payback. Isn’t energy from the sun free?

Energy from the sun is free, but the cost of equipment used to convert that free energy into usable electricity is not.  The cost of solar equipment continues to decrease, it still requires significant investment.

If a quicker payback is important to you, we suggest looking into a number of energy efficiency measures that have a more immediate payback and effectively reduce your overall energy use. Generating renewable energy and using energy more efficiently are both excellent steps forward in moving toward a better energy future for Berea and Kentucky.

How does the cost compare of leasing a panel in the Berea Solar Farm versus installing it at my home or business?

The cost of installing solar panel on your own property depends on many factors and various from place to place.  But the cost of leasing a panel from the Berea Solar Farm compares very favorably with what is typical for home-mounted systems.

Are there any additional benefits to leasing a panel in the Berea Solar Farm versus installing it on my house?

There are a number of benefits the Berea Solar Program offers that can’t be duplicated with a traditional solar installation.

  • No insurance, maintenance or installation issues. Just sign up for a panel and BMU handles the rest. You get the benefit of the electricity produced by the panel just like it was on your home.
  • The Berea Solar Farm allows BMU customers – renters, homeowners, businesses, churches or schools – access to renewable energy generation at an excellent price.
  • The program is ideal for customers whose location – whether home, apartment, business, church, or school – is not well suited to solar installation for reasons of shading or directional orientation.
  • You can transfer the electricity credits to any other BMU customer or sell them to another person.  For example, credits from leased panels might be donated to a church or donated by a church in the interests of some worthy cause.
  • If customer interest leads to expansion of the Berea Solar Farm beyond the initial 60-panel array, the program would be ideal for grow-as-you-go participation. Your family, for example, could decide to sign up for additional solar panels as budget allows in working toward offsetting a larger and larger portion of your coal-fired electricity use.

Can I still put solar panels on my house if I lease panels from the Berea Solar Farm?

Yes. The Berea Solar Farm simply offers customers another option. Customers who rent or whose homes or businesses have solar orientation or shading issues can now support renewable generation through the Berea Solar Farm. Customers who want to install solar equipment directly on their own property can still do so and enjoy the benefits of Berea’s net-metering program along with any available state and federal rebates or tax incentives.

What if I move? Can I take my panels with me?

The billing credits from the electricity production of your leased panel(s) must be tied to a specific location within BMU’s service territory.  So if you move outside of the service territory, you must transfer the billing credits from your panels to another BMU customer. This can be done by leaving the solar credits at the current BMU service location or transferring them to a new location, either selling the billing credits to another BMU customer or donating them to another customer or organization – a church or school, for example.

When you move, you cannot take the actual panels with you since you technically lease the electrical output rather than purchase and own the panels themselves. Individual solar panels installed in the Berea Solar Farm are an integral part of the entire system and cannot be removed.

Is the equipment installed in the Berea Solar Farm the same equipment I’d put on my house?

Yes. The solar panels used for the Berea Solar Farm are the same kind that you would install on your own property.

Who pays for the Berea Solar Farm?

The Department of Energy and the state of Kentucky have provided seed money through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) to help BMU get the Berea Solar Farm underway.  The initial array will consist of 60 panels.  We hope to add additional arrays in response to customer interest.  Financial support from BMU customers for the Berea Solar Farm comes only from customers choosing to lease panels.  Customers who choose not to participate are not asked to subsidize those who do.

How can I monitor the output of my panels?

When the first array is fully installed, it will be possible to use an online feature to monitor the production of the Berea Solar Farm at any time via the internet.

Does leasing panels from the Berea Solar Farm qualify for Federal Tax incentives?

As tax incentives change and are contingent on certain income requirements, please consult your tax advisor to see if your participation in the Berea Solar Farm qualifies for federal tax incentives.

How do I sign up?

Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU) will accept reservations for panels starting October 25, 2011.  Full payment and signed contract are required to reserve your panels. Download a contract here.  Please deliver your completed contract and check made payable to BMU to the BMU office or mail to:

Attn: Joyce Hendricks
Berea Municipal Utilities
PO BOX 926
Berea, KY 40403-0926

Who do I contact for more information?

For additional information, please contact:

Attn: Joyce Hendricks
Berea Municipal Utilities
PO BOX 926
Berea, KY 40403-0926