Generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) that have made large solar investments name three primary benefits to engaging in this market:
MEETING MEMBER EXPECTATIONS
G&Ts are hearing increasing requests for access to solar power from their member distribution cooperatives, frequently driven by vocal demand from their consumer-members. “When we offered to build community solar projects for our members in 2015, we expected that four of our co-ops would take us up on it,” says John Toland of Western Farmers Electric Cooperative in Anadarko, Oklahoma. “Eleven of our 22 members opted in.”
MEETING PEAK POWER DEMAND
The economics of solar improve markedly if it offsets peak power demand. In the upper Midwest, wind power is plentiful and beats solar—and every other new generation source—on price. “But most of our wind is produced at night,” says Craig Harmes of Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse, Wisconsin. “Solar is on-line during the time of day when we see our highest load. That’s a benefit to us.”
BIGGER IS BETTER
G&T resources generally allow them to build bigger and realize economies of scale, as Benson-based Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) discovered. Even with access to the same attractive financing, “the power from a 2-MW system we built for Anza [a member in California] will be almost twice the cost of the power we will see from our [recently announced] 20-MW Apache solar project,” AEPCO’s Barry Brown says.