Shared Solar Construction to Start

Customer support moves Shared Solar project forward in Middleton.

Construction of a large solar array will begin soon on the roof of the City of Middleton's Municipal Operations Center. The "MOC," as it's called, will be host to MGE's Shared Solar project, a pilot program in which the City and MGE have partnered to offer locally generated solar energy to MGE residential customers. More than 300 customers have signed up to take part in the first-of-its kind community solar project for Wisconsin.

Customers who have opted to participate can get up to half of their annual electric needs through Shared Solar, offsetting the use of fossil fuels to power their households. The 500-kilowatt (kW) solar array at the MOC will deliver electricity to our community grid.

Middleton MOC

City of Middleton's Municipal Operations Center

The project is now fully subscribed, allowing construction to get under way soon. The array is expected to be operational in December.

MGE's manager of market development, Laura Williams, has been on the team working on Shared Solar for more than a year, designing the program and, more recently, addressing questions from customers who have subscribed. Williams shared some common questions—and her answers—with energy2030together.com as we look forward to the system taking shape this fall!

Q: Other community solar projects exist. What makes this one unique?
Laura: MGE's Shared Solar is different, in part, because of the unique collaboration between MGE and the City of Middleton. This partnership helped to make the program possible.

Middleton and MGE happened to be looking into the possibility of additional solar at the same time. After some initial discussions, the City and MGE got to work designing and developing the program.

Laura Williams
This partnership helped to make the program possible.
- Laura Williams, manager of market development at MGE

This pilot also is unique because it carries a minimal up-front fee for customers who choose to take part. Customers pay a one-time up-front fee of $47.25 per quarter-kW share subscribed. Then, they pay a rate of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is locked in for 25 years.

Q: The MOC's roof is quite large. How many solar panels will be placed on it?
Laura: The roof on the MOC is a great fit for this project because it's not only large, it's also highly visible. You can see it from Highway 12. Studies show that more visible projects tend to get higher participation.

The MOC's roof is several thousand square feet larger than a football field. The solar array on the roof will cover approximately 66,000 square feet and consist of about 1,700 solar panels, capable of generating 740,000 kWh of electricity each year (enough to power more than 100 average homes). The building itself also is oriented well for panels to absorb the necessary sunshine to generate electricity.

Q: Will I be able to monitor the solar project's energy production?
Laura: Yes. MGE plans to post electricity production data at mge.com. You can find additional information about the program now at mge.com/sharedsolar.

Q: We're entering the winter season, how will that impact energy production of the installation?
Laura: Changes in the amount produced are normal since the amount of sunlight changes with the weather and seasons. The system will produce the most electricity in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky and the days are longer. The bar graph below illustrates how energy production can vary with the change in seasons.

Monthly solar energy production info graphic

Q: This project is already fully subscribed, but I'm intrigued. What can I do?
Laura: This project is fully subscribed, but customers who are interested should contact us to be added to our waiting list. Eligible customers will be contacted and added on a first-come, first-served basis.

If portions of the project become available within the first three years (for example, a previous participant moves out of the electric service area or otherwise chooses to exit), MGE will assign that participant's solar to the next customer or customers on the waiting list, depending upon how many blocks become available.

After three years, any electricity generated from the project not assigned to a specific participant will be added to the energy mix for all customers. By joining the waiting list, you also are helping us better understand the community's interest in building additional solar projects in the future.

If we explore another Shared Solar project elsewhere, we'd notify interested customers who then could sign up. To be added to our waiting list, call MGE's Home Energy Line: (608) 252-7117 or 1-800-245-1125, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit us online to fill out an application.

Energy 2030

Shared Solar is one example of how MGE is working with our customers to reach our shared energy goals, including 25% renewable energy by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Under our Energy 2030 framework, we're also targeting a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 based on 2005 levels.

With customer support and participation, we can reach our goals—or even exceed them!

Stay tuned to energy2030together.com for updates as we welcome Shared Solar.

published: 10-19-2016