Press Release: Electric Cooperatives Recognized as Leaders through Community Solar
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Electric Cooperatives Recognized as Leaders through Community Solar

Midwest Energy (Kan.) and Vernon Electric (Wis.) pioneer a path in community-owned solar


April 17, 2014

Tim Braun, Clean Energy Collective

(970) 618-0080,


Mike Morley, Midwest Energy
(785) 639-3100,


Dave Maxwell, Vernon Electric Cooperative

(608) 634-7475,



WESTBY, WIS., and HAYS, KAN. – (April 17, 2014) Two rural electric cooperatives were first in their respective states to unveil the community-owned solar solution: Midwest Energy (MWE) in Kansas, and Vernon Electric (VEC) in Wisconsin. In partnership with Clean Energy Collective (CEC), the nation’s leading community solar developer, the two cooperatives have taken a lead role in providing the opportunity for their members to own panels in a locally-sited, utility-scale solar PV array.

MWE is developing a community solar array, and VEC is developing a 305 kW community solar array. For both utilities it means opening renewable energy ownership to their entire residential and commercial membership base. Community solar customers receive all of the available rebates and tax incentives, which are included in the panel pricing. CEC’s RemoteMeter™ software tracks the power produced, and integrates with the utilities’ billing systems to seamlessly deliver credits on individual customer’s monthly bills.

The two projects were initiated because both cooperatives recognized that their members wanted solar energy. Community-owned solar proved to be solution that best met the utilities’ requirements. Support has been overwhelming. “It is very encouraging that the first community solar project in our state is being built in western Wisconsin,” said Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “Renewable energy projects like wind and solar not only improve the health and sustainability of our communities, but these energy projects have the added benefit of creating local jobs and boosting our regional economy.

Dave Maxwell, director of marketing and communications at VEC, was pleased his cooperative would not have to deal with capital costs, permitting, and other logistical challenges. “Cooperatives are not-for-profit utilities, so capital costs present a major issue,” Maxwell said. “CEC gave VEC the benefit of not having to worry about where the money was going to come from to finance this project.”

The announcement of both projects received considerable coverage, and the resulting response has been strong. In fact, VEC’s 305 kW array was fully reserved in less than a month from the program’s announcement, well before the first shovel hit the ground to start construction.

Through community-owned solar, the cooperatives’ members can own solar panels just as they would if they were to install solar on their roof – the difference is that the solar panels reside in an ideally-sited utility-scale array maintained by CEC for 50 years at no additional cost to the member. The cooperatives worked with CEC to create a program that met their members’ needs, offered an alternative to self-generation, and did so under terms that work for the utility with no capital costs to the utility. “Programs like these are gaining popularity across the nation, and Midwest Energy and Vernon Electric are leading by example,” said CEC Founder and CEO Paul Spencer.

About Clean Energy Collective

Clean Energy Collective (CEC) is the nation’s leading developer of community solar solutions. CEC pioneered the model of delivering clean power-generation through large-scale facilities that are collectively owned by participating utility customers.  Since establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country in 2010 near El Jebel, Colorado, CEC has built or has under development more than 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners across 8 states, representing 26 MW of community solar capacity.

About Midwest Energy

Midwest Energy, Inc. is a member-owned electric and natural gas cooperative serving 92,000 electric and natural gas customers in 41 central and western Kansas countries. Established in 1939, Midwest Energy provides safe, reliable and efficient energy services to its members, delivering innovative, affordable and environmentally sound solutions. True to its cooperative roots, the company also works to foster leadership and growth throughout central and western Kansas.

About Vernon Electric

Vernon Electric Cooperative provides electricity and other services to approximately 10,000 members in Vernon and parts of surrounding counties. Its mission is to provide reliable electricity to members and communities through superior member service and innovative energy solutions, at fair and reasonable prices.

Clean Energy Collective
Phone: 1-800-646-0323

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Press Release: Rural Electric Co-ops Take Solar Lead with Community-Owned Projects