JEFFERSON-Blue Ridge EMC will show off its new community solar garden initiative in Jefferson next week.
The cooperative will showcase the project at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. behind the old Sara Lee Plant at 150 Northwest Drive in Jefferson. Blue Ridge asks you to RSVP LBradshow@BlueRidgeEMC.com if you plan on attending.
The community solar garden, which was first made public in August, is an effort on Blue Ridge EMC’s part to reduce the area’s carbon footprint and allow its members to access the benefits of solar energy without significant upfront installation costs.
The Jefferson installation is one of four community solar gardens the cooperative has installed in 2016. At present, Blue Ridge said renewable energy makes up some six percent of the cooperative’s power supply but said the percentage is growing thanks to initiatives like the solar garden.
Other community solar installation sites include Caldwell, Watauga and Alleghany Counties. Each will boast installations of some 350 panels, which Blue Ridge said is capable of generating up to 150,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year, or collectively enough to completely power about 60 average homes.
The arrangement could make sense for customers who embrace the idea of renewable energy but can’t stomach the upfront costs, which can run into the thousands of dollars to setup and maintain a residential solar power system. On its website, Blue Ridge EMC also claims its solar garden will be more cost effective than a rooftop solar installation, as each has been built in locations “ideal for energy production.”
That means customers, “may subscribe to one or more panels without the upfront costs and ongoing maintenance,” according to Blue Ridge EMC.
So how exactly would a solar panel subscription scheme work? Blue Ridge said coop members will be able to sign on to the program for $4.50 per month, over a minimum subscription period of one year.
But you won’t be purchasing that panel outright, according to Blue Ridge.
“Subscribing means you are making a monthly payment in exchange for the energy produced by the panel,” according to its website. “You will receive a bill credit for your share of the energy generated.”
The coop said the amount of energy each panel produces will vary due to season and weather but estimates it should produce an average of 36 kWh per month.
“To ensure that all participants get an equal bill credit, Blue Ridge will total the energy generated by all four community solar gardens then divide by the total number of panels. All participants will then receive an equal share as a variable monthly bill credit.”
For more information, visit https://www.blueridgeemc.com/solar
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.