The 1.5MW community solar project came online near Prairie Lakes Park in Cedar Falls, Iowa, thanks to the work of a dedicated team of visionaries at Cedar Falls Utilities, the 1,200 Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) customers who invested in the array, and the tireless efforts of RER Energy Group and Sunvestment Energy Group (SEG) to bring the project to fruition.
“RER and SEG made the development simple, from project design to installation and financing,” said Michael Maulick, CEO of SunLink, which provided the solar racking and helped with the installation.
CFU did a terrific job in building excitement for this project in their community. In fact, so many CFU customers decided to participate that the solar unit price was reduced by nearly one-third, from $399 to just $270. Customers who purchased units will receive a monthly credit on their CFU electric bills for 20 years based on the output from the solar panels.
So what made this community solar garden project novel? According to Jim Kurtz, President of RER, “It was the way in which CFU separated the project into two distinct parts: one between the utility and the developer/investors, and another between the utility and the community solar garden members.”
Mr. Kurtz continued, “Community Solar can be tricky to finance if several hundred (or thousand) utility customers are being graded for financial credibility individually. By taking this risk off the table and putting themselves in the evaluation seat, CFU was able to leverage their strong history and financial credibility to allow the RER/SEG team to bring lower cost capital to finance the project.”
What’s more, 100% of the clean energy from the solar array will be used in the Cedar Falls area, making this a true community project.
“CFU was specific: they wanted community solar,” said Kurtz. “We have pursued and implemented a number of community projects before, but in this instance, the credit has to go to CFU for coming up with the unique concept of reaching out to their customers and involving them very early in the process.”
“We are also proud that our operations team was able to build this project in the middle of winter on time and under budget through very challenging conditions. They rose to the occasion as they always do.”
“RER is pleased to help provide a community array to the people of Cedar Falls that will not only provide savings benefits for the next few decades but also create a cleaner environment for the entire community,” Kurtz said.