With support from Mid-State Technical College, the MREA is hosting a solar group buy in Central Wisconsin. The advantage of a group buy is the power of volume purchasing, which can significantly reduce the upfront costs of installing solar on your home or business.
Dozens of solar group buys have been completed across the country in cities like Portland, Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago, and in states from California to Vermont. Among all of them, there have been some common elements that led to success: competitive contractor selection, community-led outreach with a trusted community partner, and a limited-time offering.
Competitive Contractor Selection: Solar Central Wisconsin’s advisory committee is comprised of representatives from the City of Stevens Point, the City of Wisconsin Rapids, and Mid-State Technical College. The MREA issued a competitive Request for Proposals and the advisory committee selected a single installer to help carry out the program. This way customers get the simplicity of a single installer, plus the confidence that the selection was made from a number of competitive choices.
Community-Led Outreach: The program would not be possible without the strong support of local organizations. Are you part of a neighborhood association, nonprofit organization, school, or workplace that is excited about solar? Help us get the word out by distributing flyers or hosting a Solar Power Hour! Email to get started.
Limited-time Offering: Nothing motivates people like a deadline. Participants have until September 30 to decide whether to go solar. Installations will take place throughout the program. The time-sensitive nature of the group buy adds urgency into the mix, and helps bring the price down for everyone. How? Read on.
The key ingredient for most participants is the pricing for the group buy. The competitive bidding process ensures the program achieves a price per watt lower than any individual would generally be able to get on the market. In addition, the price comes down for everyone when certain benchmarks are surpassed. Solar arrays through this program start at $2.455/W. At each benchmark we reach as a group (50 kW, 100 kW, and 150 kW), the pricing for the entire program comes down an additional $.05/W.
Pricing offered through the Solar Central Wisconsin Group Buy is not guaranteed to be the least expensive rate for all solar arrays. Large solar arrays may be able to achieve stand-alone economies of scale that allow for a lower overall cost. Individuals should consider all their options before signing a contract.
How is a solar installer able to offer such low prices through the program? There are two important factors: strong customer education and an economy of scale.
Strong Customer Education: Crucial to the success of the program is the community outreach and education we do. The MREA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that does training and education around renewable energy, works with local organizations to schedule and facilitate a number of 1-hour-long Solar Power Hours around the community. These events help interested homeowners determine whether solar is right for them. We’ll go over the basics of solar, financials, how to tell if your site is ready for solar, and how to participate in Solar Central Wisconsin. Getting well-informed participants to the table saves the installer hours and hours of marketing and education they would otherwise have to do themselves, and in turn saves you money.
Economy of Scale: Just like in a buyers club or co-op, the more people participate, the lower the cost is for the service provider (in this case, a solar installer), and the lower the prices are for participants. Your participation matters, and it always helps when folks talk to their friends and neighbors about the group buy.
ABOUT THE INSTALLER
North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative is central Wisconsin’s most trusted and experienced renewable energy solution provider, specializing in the design and installation of Solar Electric Systems for residential, commercial, agricultural, and governmental customers. All told, the North Wind team brings nearly a decade of experience in a wide range of renewable energy activities including design, installation, assessment, project management, consulting, and training.
In 2017, North Wind transitioned into a worker-owner cooperative. This business model allows a more democratic approach to business decision making and empowers each employee.
Josh Stolzenburg organized North Wind Renewable Energy in July of 2007, followed quickly by the addition of skilled and experienced renewable energy technicians Karl Schwingel and Craig Buttke, both NABCEP certified installers, to the ownership team. This foundation of knowledge and experience placed North Wind on solid ground. Today, North Wind employs 11 full time staff, including one master electrician, two journeyman electricians, four NABCEP certifications and five Mid- State Technical College A.A.S. degrees in renewable energy. In addition to their education and certifications, North Wind collectively offers customers over 80 years of renewable energy design and installation experience, covering more than 200 installations and totaling over 2 Megawatts of PV capacity.
Now that you’ve become familiar with how the program works, the next step is to become informed about purchasing solar. Click here to view the schedule for our upcoming Solar Power Hours and updates about the program. At the Solar Power Hour, we’ll get more specific about the basics of solar and pricing. We’re excited to meet you and get started!