Want community solar? Take a free water heater

Why one electric co-op is offering their solar customers free water heaters

Utility Dive, February 10, 2015

Minnesota’s Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric recently announced plans to construct a 250-panel community solar array, and will sell panels to customers at $170 a pop.

If that seems like a really good deal, here’s the “catch”: To get the reduced price on the solar panel, you also have to take a free hot water heater. (Yes, free.)

The combined community solar and demand response program—dubbed the Sunna Project—illustrates how utilities are looking for innovative ways to make clean energy available and affordable to their customers.

The deal: Steele-Waseca’s combined community solar/demand response program

Co-op officials say the program is break-even, which speaks to the incredible potential of water heaters as energy storage and demand-side management devices. Combining the discount on the solar panel with the $1,000 cost for the water heater amounts to customer savings of more than $2,000. But for Steele-Waseca, it means greater control over about 20% of its total potential peak load.

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