Midwest utilities ‘surprised’ by customer interest in solar

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy News Network:As Midwest utilities offer solar subscription plans, customers are sending a clear message: They want more.On May 4, the Omaha Public Power District sold the last available share for a utility-owned solar project under construction on a piece of degraded land a few miles from the utility’s shuttered nuclear plant. “We knew the demand was there, but I can say we were overwhelmingly surprised it sold out so quickly,” said Tricia McKnight, a product specialist with the Omaha Public Power District. “I think customers are a lot more environmentally sensitive than we expected.”The utility is among several in the region that is offering or preparing to offer subscription programs marketed as community solar. Critics say the offerings stretch the definition of community solar, but customers appear eager.The Omaha Public Power District had initially planned to make the program exclusive to residential customers for 90 days before opening it up to all customers, including commercial and industrial. That won’t happen anymore because of the strong demand from residential customers. In about five weeks, approximately 870 customers committed to all the power that the 5-megawatt array is expected to produce. Subscribers bought enough generation to offset, on average, about 90% of their electricity use. They will pay a premium of 79 cents per block of 100 kilowatt-hours. For a typical residential customer, that will be about $7 extra per month.And if the cost of solar energy falls — as McKnight expects it will — they could receive a credit on their bills. More than 100 customers have indicated they’d like a piece of a second array. Generation on the first one is likely to begin in August. Massive flooding in Nebraska in March delayed construction, McKnight said.Ameren Missouri also got a warm reception from customers when it opened up its first solar project for subscription last fall. Within 55 days, on Dec. 10, customers had spoken for all 1 MW of generation. Customers are continuing to queue up for solar power. Ameren’s project is “78% oversubscribed,” according to a company spokesman Brad Brown.More: Midwest utilities ‘overwhelmingly surprised’ by solar subscription demand Midwest utilities ‘surprised’ by customer interest in solarlast_img read more