Xcel Energy will start working with the St. Cloud Math and Science Academy to provide energy from several of its community solar sites. The facilities providing the academy cost-saving energy are located more than 60 miles away in Starbuck. According to estimates, Xcel’s solar program will save the school upwards of $2,000 every year that it’s subscribed to the facilities.
The St. Cloud Math and Science Academy is joining other subscribers, like Minnesota’s Department of Transportation, Glacier Ridge Health, and American Business Solutions. Money saved by being part of Xcel’s community solar sites will go toward the school’s operations and materials for its programs.
According to Sandi Eikmeier, the school’s administrative assistant, subscribing the school to the solar program also serves to teach students about the benefits of solar energy. A teacher at the academy is working with Nokomis Energy to create a virtual space students can log into to see how production at the site varies from day to day.
While the school is drawing power from two of Xcel’s facilities, the utility company is also working with Nokomis to develop additional community solar sites. The energy generated by these sites would be sold through Xcel’s Solar Rewards Community solar program and would be made available to the region’s low- to middle-income residents.
The rewards program involves Xcel purchasing energy from the community solar sites using bill credits purchased by the subscribers. In return, the homeowners and small businesses that subscribe will receive a credit on their account to reflect the energy they use. Taking part in the community solar programs requires no upfront cost. Participants are also not locked into a contract, meaning they can leave as they see fit.
Programs like the one the St. Cloud Math and Science Academy are subscribed to come at a beneficial time as the school returns to session after being closed due to COVID-19 lockdowns.