MINSTER – A perfect plan is often simple and direct. The village of Minster and Eitri Foundry have created that perfect plan in the construction of a new solar field at the village industrial park.
On Friday, Minster village officials and representatives of Eitri held a symbolic solar panel signing to emphasize the benefits their new 4.5 mega-watt solar field in the village industrial park. This new field is alongside a similarly sized solar field built a few years ago.
Village Administrator Don Harrod said the cooperative effort between the village and solar energy company Eitri allows the village to obtain cheaper electrical rates.
“Since the electricity is created on site, the village does not have to pay for transmission charges from a distant electrical plant,” he said. “As a result, we save over $200,000 per year in electrical charges from our original solar field.”
He said he fully expected to see similar savings with the new solar field.
“Once the second phase is complete, solar energy will be 25% of our electric source portfolio,” Harrod said.
The new solar field is expected to be in operation by January 2021.
Harrod also said he was amazed by how quickly the more than 7,000 solar field panels were going up.
“It is amazing to me what can be accomplished when public and private entities cooperate to make things happen,” he said.
The project will cost the village only the use of industrial park land. The cost of building the $8 million project was covered by solar company Eitri Foundry and its investor, Madison Energy Investments.
Eitri spokesperson Lian Niu said his company builds new solar fields by bringing together smaller entities like Minster with larger companies that want to invest in the IRS federal energy tax credits while selling renewable energy.
It begins with a power purchase agreement, which separates out the responsibilities.
“We come to the investor saying we have found a great community that wants benefits from solar energy that will agree to buy any electric produced by the solar field,” Niu said. “The investor retains the rights and ownership of the equipment and revenue generated. Thus they received the tax credits and the municipality can receive electrical energy at a rate comparable or even lower than current rates.”
The requirements that need to be met to obtain the federal credits are often beyond the budgets or missions of smaller organizations such as villages and school districts. Niu said this meant Ohio, especially the rural areas, was under-served.
Eitri and financial investors stepped into the gap, and this is the sixth installation Eitri has built this year. It also has installed fields in Monroeville, Grafton, Carey, Plymouth and Montpelier. Pictures and video of some of the projects can be found at its website, www.eitrifoundry.com.
Tax income to the village is another benefit of building a solar field. Because the investor is selling electricity to the village, generating income, there are taxes paid to Minster.
“Yesterday we did a quick calculation, and over the 30 year contract, a municipality could realize $1 million in tax income,” Niu said.
When comparing to turbine wind electrical production, Niu said, solar compares favorably.
“For one, while turbines are able to run all night, solar energy is produced during daylight hours when energy demand is highest,” he said.
He also said the costs to produce solar panels has dropped significantly over the years, to the point they can compete with electricity from coal-fired plants.
He said solar energy is quiet, and the panels don’t take as much space as turbines.
“Land that turbines are on are pretty much out of use while solar fields are often used for other environmentally-friendly projects,” he said. “We frequently work with OSU Extension Service to install pollinator plant programs.”
The company also has worked with other organizations in a similar way. The Carey High School FFA also maintains a pollinator program at its school’s solar field.