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Columbia Utilities proposes new solar energy program

 Rows of solar panels in a solar field.
The Community Solar program will be presented to Columbia City Council at future council meetings.

Columbia Utilities proposed a new solar energy program to the Water and Light Advisory Board on Monday that would grant residents easier access to renewable energy.

The proposal involved a presentation outlying the program, Community Solar. The presentation states that Columbia residents would be able to buy a subscription to one solar block in nearby solar fields.

The subscription would cost about $23.46 a month. This includes a $12.69 solar subscription and a variable cost of $10.77 for utility operations. Additionally, up to 100 income eligible participants would receive one solar block for one year with a lower subscription cost.

Columbia Utilities also presented a draft of a Community Solar Rate Application which outlines information such as terms of participation and participation limits, fees, rates, and billing, terms of service, and more including the expected energy production. According to the draft, customers could anticipate an annual output of approximately 3,276 kilowatts per hour with a monthly average of 273 kilowatts per hour.

“If it’s a really nice sunny year, they’re going to get more production, higher benefit from the solar," said Todd McVicker, Columbia Water and Light's Energy Services Supervisor. "If it's not as good of a year, then it won’t be quite as good because it’s actually based on how much power the solar actually produces.”

Community Solar would be offered to residential electric customers only, with Solar One customers receiving first priority. It would be available for both owned and rental properties.

According to Columbia Utilities, this program was made possible by the city’s past solar energy program, Solar One, which provided residents solar energy through electricity generated by a solar site on West Ash.

The Solar One program shut down in 2017 and, according to previous reporting by the Columbia Missourian, was never meant to expand. It was simply to spark interest in solar energy among local residents.

The new solar energy program is on a much bigger scale, generating solar energy from two sites, Truman and Bernadette fields.

McVicker said the program would function through a net billing subscription service. This means that customers would get a credit on their utility bill for the equivalent power produced from their solar block.

The Community Solar program will be presented to the City Council in the upcoming weeks where council members will determine if Columbia Utilities should move forward with the program.

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