After one day, the city of Hastings has sold the equivalent of 67 panels in its community solar project west of the Hastings Municipal Airport.
Monday was the first day Hastings Utilities customers could sign up to participate in the program.
Options include the purchase of installed panels, participating in a solar share program or a combination of the installation and share options. The options carry a one-time $50 enrollment fee due for all options at the time of application that is refundable as a credit to the account after one year of participation.
Derek Zeisler, director of marketing and energy supply for Hastings Utilities, said Tuesday morning 13 panels were sold and participation in 18 shares was agreed to during the first day of availability. Each share comprises three panels, so those options add up to 67 panels, which is about 1 percent of the 6,012 total panels included in the project.
The project is scheduled to come online in early September.
Hastings Utilities had an informational meeting Thursday at the Hastings Public Library to answer questions about participation in the solar project.
“We were impressed by some of the questions people wanted answered with a lot of the people really trying to understand what we’ve got here,” Zeisler said.
He would like to have a second informational meeting where HU customers could sign up for solar, but hasn’t scheduled anything so far.
One of the biggest things Zeisler said the public should know about the solar project is that it is not necessarily a cheaper electricity option for utility customers.
“That was never the intent of this,” he said. “The intent was to make sure we had an option for those who were interested in participating in renewables. We feel very good about the price point this came in at, but it’s not going to be for everyone.”
One panel is expected to average 48 kilowatt hours a month — 52 kWh in year one, and 45 kWh by year 30 — over the course of the project’s 30-year lifespan.
The one-time cost per purchased panel is $384.
One solar share will include three panels and equal 150 kWh.
There is also a combination of the purchase and share options available to customers.
For a residential customer who uses 1,000 kWh per month, two solar shares would cover 30 percent of that usage.
It would take six purchased panels to cover that 30 percent mark at a total cost of $2,304, $1,612.80 after the current solar investment tax credit.
At that level, the customer would save $4.71 per month, but would be making the investment on the front end of the project.
Solar participants would benefit from a base energy credit that is adjusted annually and represents what it costs Hastings to purchase power from the Southwest Power Pool. That credit will initially be 2.13 cents per kWh.
Customers choosing the solar share option also would receive the base energy credit of 2.13 cents per kWh, but would pay a solar energy charge of 3.01 cents per kWh. Two shares — six panels and 300 kWh — would add $2.63 to a monthly electric bill for 1,000 kWh of consumption for a total of $110.16.
A single share — slightly more than 15 percent of the average customer usage — would add $1.32 each month.
Under pricing without solar, an HU residential customer is paying $107.53 per month for 1,000 kWh of electricity.
The panels are generating kilowatts that Hastings Utilities doesn’t have to buy. So if the cost of the market starts to grow, so will that credit.
“That payback for both shares and panels is really going to be up to what energy prices do moving forward,” Zeisler said. “If energy prices go up that’s a greater potential of a quicker payback in that investment.”
Computer kiosks have been set up at the HU administration office, 1228 N. Denver Ave., where customers could use a billing module to see how their own numbers would be affected by solar.
“That way, if they have any questions we’re right there to answer them, too,” he said.
The module, and more information about the solar project, is available at www.cityofhastings.org/solar.
“We’re excited we have something available and at the end of the day if anybody wants to come in and see how it would affect their bill, we’re happy to sit down and show them the cost breakdown,” he said.