NORTH MANKATO — The city of North Mankato could save more than $160,000 over 25 years if they agree to sign on as a subscriber to a solar garden facility in Gibbon, Minnesota.
A community solar garden run by Novel Energy Solutions has offered North Mankato a spot at a newly open facility near an Xcel Energy substation in Sibley County. The garden is part of a legislatively mandated program for Xcel, which would offer bill credit to North Mankato as a result.
Finance Director Kevin McCann said the community solar garden in Gibbon is the best bet out of similar programs because Novel Energy Solutions offers a guaranteed rebate of 1 cent per kWh. McCann and representatives with Novel Energy Solutions brought the proposal before the North Mankato City Council during a public meeting Monday night.
Under a potential agreement, North Mankato could opt out of the program after five years if city officials aren't satisfied with the arrangement. It could take up to another five years for Novel Energy Solutions to find another subscriber to replace the city, however.
The city could save an estimated $34,000 in energy costs during that five-year period. If North Mankato agrees to continue its subscription, the city stands to gain $162,000 in energy savings over the next 25 years.
North Mankato is investigating sustainable energy practices as part of its comprehensive plan. Residents and council members alike are pleased city staff is researching solar energy, but some residents question whether $162,000 over 25 years is worth the subscription if the city could build its own solar panel array and potentially save more on energy costs.
Council member Diane Norland said she's researched community solar gardens in the past and considers the agreement a good option for the city.
"I say we move on it," she said.
Council member Jim Whitlock urged the council to set a work session to learn more about the solar garden program before the council's next public meeting on July 16. The council agreed, but a Novel Energy Solution official said two other organizations are looking into the same subscription program.
If either one agrees to become a subscriber, they would take the last available subscription slot at the Gibbon facility. North Mankato would have to look elsewhere for a similar solar garden agreement.