MINSTER, Ohio – In Minster, there are more solar panels than people.
- Minster's solar farm produces about 13 percent of its power supply
- Having solar amounts to hundreds of dollars in savings for some customers
- Minster hopes to add more solar to eventuallly create a microgrid
Just over 13,000 solar panels are located west of town. Inside the village limits — about 3,000 people.
Three years ago, Minster flipped the switch on its solar farm. After investing $50,000 it is already seeing savings ten-fold.
Half Moon Ventures footed the remaining costs of the project.
Minster operates its own electrical company, but buys about two-thirds of its power from outside sources like coal and nuclear. The other third is from renewable energy like wind and hyrdo.
Minster's solar farm produces about 13 percent of the village's power supply.
“By having a solar field tied to our own system we're not transporting that power from someplace else to us,” explain Don Harrod, village administrator. “So we're seeing about $175,000 to $200,000 in year savings just on transmission costs.”
Harrod explained that residential customers pay about 9 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour of energy. Without the solar, residents would pay 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour. That savings can total into the hundreds of dollars for some customers.
The solar farm is also good for business. Dannon recently added a 280,000 square foot distribution facility to its existing factory – already the largest yogurt building in the country.
Nidec-Minster is in the process of adding 25,000 square feet to its global headquarters in Minster.
Harrod said Minster's solar energy helps those businesses meet some of its own energy standards.
Those companies and its residential base are part of the reason Minster went solar to begin with.
“We are very concerned about reliability. We want our electrical system to be up and running 99.99 percent of the time.”
Harrod said Minster would like to add more solar in the future to create a microgrid. That would allow the village to remain independent of any outside electricity should something happen to the transmission lines. If storms were to take out the transmission lines, Minster would still be able to meet short-term electrical needs until the lines could be repaired.
One reason Minster could create a microgrid is it already has a solar storage unit, one of the first in the U.S.
The stored solar energy helps offset peak demand. Instead of buying more power from outside sources, Minster can use energy it has already produced. That has also helped the village save more than $350,000.
Any savings the village accumulates from solar energy is put back into the electrical system.
The village is beginning construction on a new substation that will replace a 1970s substation.
The village also recently installed new power lines through town to increase reliability.