What is a Community Solar Garden (CSG)?

A Community Solar Garden (CSG) is a large array of solar (PV) panels that you can subscribe to instead of putting panels on your roof.  The electricity generated by the CSG goes into the Xcel Energy grid and your portion is calculated.  You pay for your subscription and are credited for your solar production as a line item on your Xcel bill.  Xcel pays a premium for the solar energy, so you are credited more than you pay, resulting in immediate savings for you.  In year 1 of your subscription, you will save 10% on your electricity.  Subscribe Here

MNCS solar garden energy goes into the grid, your portion is measured

Your Excel bill has a line item crediting you for your solar energy

$.153

You pay MNCS based on your subscription amount

$.140

You | Subscriber

MNCS solar garden energy goes into the grid, your portion is measured

You pay MNCS based on your subscription amount

$.133/kwh

You | Subscriber

This is where you save 10% ($.013/kwh)

Your Xcel bill has a line item crediting you for your solar energy

$.146/kwh


You do not own or maintain the solar panels.  You also do not receive the actual electrons they produce, those get mixed into the grid with all the other energy and you continue to receive electricity in your home the same way you always have.

Future Savings

Future savings depend on Xcel rate changes.

Our subscriptions let you lock in with a fixed 2.3% escalator.  The more Xcel rates increase, the more you save.  Xcel’s rates have increased at 2.75% over the last 20 years, 4% over the last decade, and 5.5% in 2016.  MNCS assumes an Xcel rate increase of 2.75% when projecting your future savings.  No one can say for sure what Xcel rates will do, so we’ve plotted some scenarios to show how various Xcel rate changes would impact your savings.

While future savings depends on Xcel rate changes, the environmental impact does not. A household using 10,000 kWh/yr of electricity can avoid CO2 emissions equivalent to over 19,000 miles driven, or 200 trees planted each year.

Who can subscribe?

Subscriptions are open to anyone with an Xcel Energy account, including homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofits.

There are a few subscriber rules outlined by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC)/ Minnesota Statute:

SUBSCRIBER'S RULES
  • You must have an Xcel account
  • You must be in the same or adjacent county to the garden
  • You can subscribe up to 120% of your usage
  • You cannot subscribe to more than 40% of a garden
  • There must be 5+ subscribers per garden

MNCS subscriptions are offered with no upfront costs because we are able to finance our gardens.  In turn, subscribers must have a minimum FICO score of 680 to ensure the garden is adequately funded for the life of your subscription.

Key Subscription Agreement Terms
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Key Subscription Agreement Terms

When shopping for “pay-as-you-go” CSG subscriptions, here are the three main variables you should consider, and the terms MNCS offers for each of the variables.

1

INITIAL RATE | initial amount you pay for your subscription

MNCS initial rate is $.133/kWh.  The Xcel bill credit rate as of 4/1/2016 is $.146/kWh.  This creates an immediate 10% savings for you.

2

ESCALATOR | annual % increase that you pay for your subscription

MNCS has a fixed 2.3% escalator.  If Xcel rates also increase at 2.3% annually, you will continue to save 10% year after year.  If Xcel rates increase at a rate greater than 2.3% you will save more each year.  MNCS assumes an average Xcel rate increase of 2.75% when projecting your future savings.

3

TRANSFER AND EXIT TERMS

Most importantly, MNCS subscriptions give you the options you need when you encounter major life events and changes.  Subscriptions last 25 years and many aspects of your present life may change in that time.  We provide the following terms so that you are protected if you need to transfer or exit your subscription early.

Becoming ineligible: $250 | covers our cost for replacing your subscription

  1. Moving out of territory (no longer in the same or contiguous county to your garden)
  2. Moving to an apartment or assisted living facility where you no longer have an Xcel account

Downsizing: $250 prorated

  1. Moving to a home with lower electricity usage and becoming ineligible for a portion of your subscription size (e.g. if you move to a home that allows half of your subscription size, you would pay half of $250 to downsize your subscription)

Transfer to your new location: $0

  1. You can bring your subscription with you if your new home is in the same or adjacent county to the CSG, and your subscription size does not exceed 120% of your new home’s electricity usage.

Transfer to someone else: $100

  1. The person buying your home, a friend, family member, or anyone who is eligible for the subscription, provided they meet the 680 FICO requirement.

Death: $0 and no responsibility for your estate

  1. In the event a subscriber dies during the 25-year contract, MNCS protects both the subscriber and their loved ones; your family or estate need not assume any responsibility for your subscription unless you want to make it available to them.

Termination while still eligible:

  1. If you are still eligible for your subscription, you may not exit during the first 6 years.  After 6 years you may exit with a penalty equal to 1 year of subscription payments.  The reason for this is that we are putting up 100% of the capital to build the garden, and it takes many years to see returns.  For the project to be financially viable there needs to be a minimal level of subscriber commitment.

Here is our full Subscription Agreement so you can review all the terms.  When you subscribe you will be agreeing to the language in the Subscription Agreement, so be sure to read it through.

We value transparency and have written our subscription agreement so that is suitable for our friends and family.  We hope you will find it suitable for you and yours.

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Payment Structure
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Payment Structure

We offer flat monthly automatic withdrawals (ACH), for quick and easy payment, along with an annual true-up (reconciliation) to ensure you only pay for electricity produced.

During the annual true-up, if you paid for more electricity than was produced by your portion of the garden the prior year, we reimburse you for the overpaid amount.  The same happens in the reverse; if you paid for less electricity than was produced by your portion of the garden the prior year, MNCS will bill you for the difference (because you would already have been credited by Xcel for that extra energy).

While our flat monthly withdrawals are based on anticipated production averaged over the year and require an annual true-up, the credits you receive on your Xcel bill are based on actual garden production in a given month, so you are always being appropriately credited by Xcel.

Solar production varies depending on the time of year.  This graph shows an example of monthly electricity output for a subscriber with 10,000 kwh/year usage history (9.6 kW worth of panels).  The flat monthly ACH subscription payment is based on average expected monthly output.

* Energy production estimate from SAM (System Advisor Model, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory) using PV WattsTM.

Once your garden goes live you will begin paying for your subscription and receiving bill credits.  Your Xcel bill will look the same as it always has, but with an additional line item crediting  you for your CSG solar production.  After your Year 1 MNCS true-up you will have saved 10% on your electricity, compared with what you would have paid Xcel if you had not joined the community solar garden.

Here is an example of payment and credit amounts for a CSG subscription based on 10,000 kwh usage history (subscription at 120% would be 9.6kW worth of panels).  Since electricity usage and solar panel production vary from month to month, this example uses Year 1 totals.

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Actual photo of a MNCS CSG

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