Shared Solar Pilot Program

Shared Solar Frequently Asked Questions

Shared Solar logo

Shared Solar Program


What is the Shared Solar program?
A large solar array that can supply about 250 homes has been constructed on the roof of the Middleton Municipal Operations Center. Electricity from this system is available to MGE customers through a unique program called Shared Solar. It is a simple way for you to get solar power's benefits without having a system on your home. Now you can support solar—even if you rent or have a shaded roof.

How does Shared Solar fit with MGE's Energy 2030 framework?
This new approach to using solar was designed by MGE with help from our customers. MGE's Shared Solar is an example of the types of innovative programs, products and services through which we'll be partnering with customers in many different ways to advance our Energy 2030 framework. Under Energy 2030, MGE has pledged to transition to a more environmentally sustainable energy supply and further reduce carbon emissions.

Where is the solar system located?
MGE partnered with the City of Middleton to build the system on the roof of its new Municipal Operations Center (MOC) at 4330 Parmenter St. east of and visible from Highway 12, on the north side of Middleton.

Why was it built in Middleton?
The MOC building's roof is perfectly oriented to maximize annual electricity output from a solar system. Middleton is hosting the project at no cost in exchange for MGE's help to put solar on the Middleton police station. This arrangement makes the project more affordable.

How much electricity will it produce?
The project has a capacity of 500 kilowatts (kW) (or 2,000 quarter-kW blocks). Given the type and efficiencies of solar panels and other project components and our region's solar exposure, we expect to generate about 650,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually from the project.

Are participants paying to own part of the solar array?
No. Participants are reserving for their use, as long as they remain in the program, a portion of the electricity produced from the solar project over its 25-year lifetime.

Is the power delivered directly to the homes of participants?
The power from the Shared Solar project is delivered to MGE's electric grid. It replaces electricity that would have been generated by fossil fuels.

How does Shared Solar compare to buying a rooftop solar system?
Both options mean paying more for clean, renewable power in the near term. Buying your own system involves paying up-front or taking out a loan for the cost of the solar system. Joining Shared Solar involves paying a small up-front participation fee (about 10% of the cost of the Shared Solar project reserved to provide energy for you) and a little more for the solar energy as it is produced but at a fixed rate for 25 years. As the cost of conventional sources of power goes up, both options may eventually reduce your future electricity costs.

Why is solar power more expensive today? I thought the energy from the sun was free.
The energy from the sun is free, but the cost of equipment used to convert that free energy into usable electric energy is still more expensive.

What if it is really cloudy and the solar panels do not generate enough electricity?
We will do everything we can to maintain and operate the system to maximize the amount of electricity you receive. Changes in the amount produced are totally normal since the amount of sunlight changes with the weather and seasons. The system will produce the most electricity in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky and the days are longer. It is also normal for solar panels to generate less energy over time as they age (about one-half of 1% per year).

monthly solar chart

What if a storm damages the solar panels?
We will do everything we can to make repairs and restore the solar system to optimal performance. Damage to the solar project will not cause participants to lose power. MGE will continue to meet all of the energy needs of the participants with other resources as long as there is no damage to the electrical system feeding into their homes.

Can I monitor the solar project's energy production over time?
Yes, you can monitor the energy produciton at mge.com/sharedsolarproduction.




Associated Costs


How much does Shared Solar cost?
Participants paid a one-time participation fee of $47.25 per quarter-kW block at sign-up.

Now that the project is complete, MGE will bill participants for Shared Solar electricity at the fixed rate of $0.12 per kWh for up to 25 years, as long as the participant remains an electric customer. MGE will calculate how much of the solar electricity is applied to the actual energy use each billing period.

Participants also pay a reduced transmission service rate of $0.008 per kWh on all solar energy billed. This is 50% of the standard transmission service rate and reflects the benefit of local solar in reducing transmission costs. This rate will be reviewed in each rate case. To see how this appears on your bill, please review our sample bill.

An average MGE customer using 6,600 kWh per year who chooses 50% of their energy from the solar project would pay about $90 more for their electricity in the first year. This customer would also pay $472.50 for the participation fee when they sign up ($47.25 per block multiplied by the 10 blocks they requested).

The rest of the electricity is billed at the standard rate. The Shared Solar rate is now 2.8 cents higher than that standard rate. Over time, as the cost of conventional sources of power increases while the Shared Solar rate stays the same, participants may save money.

How much energy from the Shared Solar project could participants purchase?
Participants were able to buy up to 50% of their annual electricity use from the Shared Solar program or the estimated annual electricity produced by 12 blocks (3 kW), which is 3,900 kWh per year, whichever is less.

For example, if a participant used an average of 4,000 kWh annually, they could choose to purchase one-half or 2,000 kWh which is the amount of energy produced from 6 quarter-kW blocks (or 1.5 kW of the project's capacity). Six blocks would produce about 1,950 kWh of solar energy per year. The participation fee for this election is $283.50 ($47.25 x 6 blocks).

The maximum amount of solar energy for which participants will be billed each month is 100% of their electricity consumption or the amount of electricity produced by your per kW block portion of the solar project that month, whichever is less.

The table below shows the block options, the participation fee associated with that block size and the estimated energy produced (kWh) by that number of blocks each month.

Blocks
kW:
Up-front Fee:
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Annual kWh
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
0.25 0.5 0.75 1 1.25 1.5 1.75 2 2.25 2.50 2.75 3
$47.25 $94.50 $141.75 $189.00 $236.25 $283.50 $330.75 $378.00 $425.25 $472.50 $519.75 $567.00
16 32 48 64 80 96 112 128 144 160 176 192
21 42 63 84 105 126 147 168 189 210 231 252
27 54 81 108 135 162 189 216 243 270 297 324
30 60 90 120 150 180 210 240 270 300 330 360
39 78 117 156 195 234 273 312 351 390 429 468
39 78 117 156 195 234 273 312 351 390 429 468
39 78 117 156 195 234 273 312 351 390 429 468
37 74 111 148 185 222 259 296 333 370 407 444
27 54 81 108 135 162 189 216 243 270 297 324
22 44 66 88 110 132 154 176 198 220 242 264
14 28 42 56 70 84 98 112 126 140 154 168
14 28 42 56 70 84 98 112 126 140 154 168
325 650 975 1300 1625 1950 2275 2600 2925 3250 3575 3900

How much were up-front costs?
The minimum choice of one quarter-kW block is $47.25. The maximum amount (12 blocks depending on individual usage) costs $567.

How does this affect a participant's electric bill?
Participating in Shared Solar will add less than $1* per month to a participant's bill for the minimum purchase of one quarter-kW block. For the maximum purchase of 12 blocks, it will add about $10* monthly.
*Compared to 2016 rates. If rates increase in the future, the extra monthly amount would be less.

Why was there a nonrefundable participation fee?
The fee covered about 10% of the cost to build a portion of the solar project. The rest of the project's costs are paid through the $0.12 per kWh electricity charge. Without the participation fee, this electricity charge would be higher. The participation fee is nonrefundable because MGE is counting on those who signed up for the voluntary program to pay the costs of the solar project built to serve them.

How does the Shared Solar rate compare to the standard residential electric rate?
The Shared Solar rate (Cs-1) currently is 2.8 cents more per kWh than the standard Rg-1 rate. However, the $0.12 per kWh solar rate will not change for 25 years.

The standard electric rate will likely increase over time. The fixed solar rate may, in future years, reduce the overall electricity bill of participants. It is likely to take about 10 years to begin to see net savings and approximately 17 years to see a payback of the extra cost paid by participants.

  Standard Rate Solar Rate
     
Electricity Service $0.100 $0.120
Distribution Service $0.034 $0.034
Transmission Service --* $0.008
     
Total cost: $0.134 $0.162
Solar Premium:   $0.028

*Included in standard rate electricity service charge.

When will MGE begin billing the solar rate charge?
The electricity usage based on the amount of solar energy selected by the participant will be billed at a fixed rate of $0.12 per kWh beginning January 11, 2017. Participants have been notified about the new charges included on their bill.



Participation


Who can participate in Shared Solar?
The Shared Solar program is currently sold out. However, residential customers on MGE's standard residential rate (Rg-1) [15 kB PDF] can join our waiting list. If portions of the project become available within the first three years (previous participant moves out of the electric service area or otherwise chooses to exit), MGE will offer them to the next customer on the waiting list.

By joining the waiting list, you also are helping us better understand the community's interest in building additional solar projects in the future.

What happens now that the project is fully subscribed?
Now that the project is fully subscribed, other interested customers will be placed on a waiting list. If portions of the project become available within the first three years (previous participant moves out of the electric service area or otherwise chooses to exit), MGE will assign their solar to the next customer on the waiting list. After three years, any electricity generated from the project not assigned to a specific participant will be added to the energy mix for all customers.

By joining the waiting list, you also are helping us better understand the community's interest in building additional solar projects in the future.

How do I join the Shared Solar waiting list?
Use our online tool to select the number of "blocks" of the solar project's capacity you want. Each block is one-quarter kW. You can sign up for up to half of your annual electricity use (up to 3 kW or 12 blocks). Complete and send the online form to MGE. We will send you some participation materials to review. If capacity becomes available, you will be notified on a first-come, first-served basis.

Can I join Shared Solar if I am in MGE's Green Power Tomorrow (GPT)?
Yes. When you join Shared Solar, MGE will automatically adjust your GPT purchase to apply only to any of your electricity use that exceeds the amount of solar power produced by your Shared Solar blocks.

What happens if I move?
Your program participation will automatically transfer to your new MGE electric account. Participation ends if you move outside of MGE's electric service area.

Can I cancel my participation?
Yes. You can leave the program at any time. When you notify us, MGE will resume billing you for all your electricity use at the standard rate. The up-front participation fee is nonrefundable.

How many customers can participate?
This 500-kW project serves 250 residential participants. MGE may build more projects to accommodate customer interest.

Can I view the Terms and Conditions?
Participants must complete and sign a Service Agreement. Read an overview of the agreement's Terms and Conditions.

Whom can I call to learn more?
Call MGE's Home Energy Line: (608) 252-7117(608) 252-7117 or 1-800-245-11251-800-245-1125, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information