Hastings Utilities customers looking to participate in the community solar project have the option of purchasing panels, solar shares or a combination of both up to 80 percent of a customer’s annual usage.

Derek Zeisler, HU director of marketing and energy supply, spoke about those options during an informational meeting Thursday evening at the Hastings Public Library.

“For a customer, I think it’s kind of an individual choice,” Zeisler said to his audience of about 30 people.

The options carry a one-time $50 enrollment fee due at the time of application that is refundable as a credit to the account after one year of participation.

Monday is the first day to sign up for the program at the Hastings Utilities administrative office at 1228 N. Denver Ave.

Participants can pay with cash, check or credit card at the time of registration. However, there is a surcharge when using a card.

Several HU employees were on hand Thursday to answer questions and help customers run their individual financial figures to see whether the solar program is right for them.

More information is available about the program at www.cityofhastings.org/solar, including a tool that allows customers to plug in their own budget information.

The Hastings City Council approved earlier this year a $2.38 million bid from GenPro Energy Solutions for a 1.5 megawatt AC solar project with the purchase option.

This first phase of the solar project will include 6,012 panels that tilt with the sun within three arrays northwest of Hastings Municipal Airport.

Jeff Berggren, Nebraska program manager for GenPro Energy Solutions, attended the meeting Thursday. One of the most common questions he gets is whether the panels will withstand hail.

He said the solar panels GenPro Energy Solutions uses have to be able to take a 1-inch ball bearing at 55 mph at a 90-degree angle at the center and corner of the panel.

“I know 1-inch isn’t very big compared to the hail we can get the speed it can travel but the density of that steel is much larger than your average hailstone,” he said.

GenPro has installed about 30,000 panels in Nebraska and South Dakota over the course of 10 years. Berggren said during that time the company lost 10 panels to hail.

“So they can handle it,” he said.

One installed 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.

Purchasing panels makes the purchaser eligible for a tax credit.

Customers choosing the solar share option would receive a 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.

For 1,000 kWh, purchasing the installed panel would save $4.72 per month, compared to no solar participation, with the purchase of six panels for $2,304 — $1,612.80 after a 30 percent tax credit.

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