MANKATO — A Mankato affordable housing nonprofit is teaming up with a solar cooperative to provide lower cost, renewable power to their clients.
Partners for Affordable Housing has subscribed 17 of its housing units to a new community solar garden operated by the Just Solar Coalition. The 1 megawatt community solar garden is being built in Janesville and will be producing power next spring.
Jen Theneman, executive director of PAH, said the solar subscriptions will allow them to save money on electricity and the solar contract allows them to transfer the subscription to the next owner of a property if PAH decides to sell some of them in the future.
“As a nonprofit who strives to provide relevant programs to help the most people, we find ourselves struggling to cover the cost of these supportive services,”
The nonprofit will save about $720 the first year for electricity for the 17 units and are projected to save more than $100,000 over 25 years.
The Just Solar Coalition was formed in 2014 by Cooperative Energy Futures, a Minnesota member-owned cooperative, and Minnesota Interfaith Power Light, a nonprofit network of faith communities, with a vision to create access to the benefits of clean energy.
“As renewable energy continues to become cheaper and more widespread, it’s important that those benefits are available to the people and organizations who need them most,” said Briana Baker, southern Minnesota Coordinator for MNIPL.
Baker said the faith groups launched the solar power coalition as a way to address “the climate crisis” and because some of the large solar companies weren’t always treating customers fairly.
“What we saw happening is Minnesota passed laws to help community solar but these big companies from out-of-state came and put up projects and some were a little shady about what they told customers. We wanted something that was widely available and people are a member of the cooperative so they have a little more say in how it’s run,” Baker said.
The group has other solar projects but the Janesville one is the first in this region.
She said they have some small businesses and many homeowners who subscribe for solar power but that PAH is the first nonprofit to join. “Part of our goal is that the benefits of renewable energy are available widely. This is a perfect example of what we want this to be.”
The Just Solar Coalition project has no income or credit requirements, is available to renters, offers flexible termination and transfer options, and the only upfront cost is $25 to join the cooperative. Subscribers can take their contract with them to a new house or apartment, transfer it to a friend, or cancel it with three months worth of payments.
“We don’t want our members stuck in a contract if something in your life changes, or if the price of electricity changes in an unexpected way,” Baker said.
Theneman said the ability to transfer the subscription played a big role in their decision to join the solar cooperative.
“Due to financing, some of our properties must remain in our ownership for the purpose of housing those experiencing homelessness — so we’ll get the benefit for many years to come. Other properties are not restricted, so if we determine that we should sell a property, the ability to transfer the subscription to a new owner is a positive selling point.”
For 30 years PAH has been helping to provide housing needs for vulnerable populations. They own and operate a number of housing facilities that provide different housing options. In addition to their emergency shelters, Theresa House and Welcome Inn, they provide transitional and permanent affordable housing options to homeless and/or at-risk individuals and families.
Baker said that any resident or business that receives its power from Xcel and who lives in Waseca County or any county adjoining it can subscribe to the Janesville solar garden. Xcel is required by the state to allow its customers to subscribe to solar power gardens, while other electric cooperatives are not.
For more information visit mnipl.org/csg or contact Briana Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 320-905-4442.