ELIZABETH – A solar farm built by Jo-Carroll Energy has about 25 subscribers and is looking for more.
The South View Solar Farm was built in the backyard of the cooperative’s headquarters in Elizabeth, and was commissioned for production in December.
The co-op primarily serves Jo Daviess and Carroll counties, but also has a presence in Whiteside and Henry counties. Although its work in renewable energy is new, the co-op dates back to 1939. Its first 20 miles of electric lines were laid for its 60 original members 1 year later.
The driving force behind the co-op’s foray into green energy was the people who own the co-op – its members.
“We had a lot of interest in solar from our members, and that was the main reason we decided to do this,” said Kyle Buros, the co-op’s senior vice president and assistant general manager.
Its 75 employees now service 26,500 accounts in the four counties, with some members subscribing to multiple offerings that include electric, natural gas, broadband and solar.
“We provide services for residential, business and industry, and some farmers,” co-op spokeswoman Peggy Francomb said.
Jo-Carroll Energy solar subscribers buy panels at a cost of $890 each. Users share the power produced by the solar farm and receive credits on their monthly bills for their investment in the project. The estimated annual return on average is $48 to $50 in credits per panel.
“Based on our design, which is pretty efficient, the investment should pay for itself in about 17 years,” Buros said.
The farm has 456 panels at this time, with each panel producing 275 watts of power. The typical residential user needs between 10 and 15 panels, while a small retail business would need about 200 panels,” Buros said.
If demand exceeds available capacity, the Elizabeth site is equipped for a rapid expansion.
“We’re open to commercial and industrial users, so the capacity could disappear quickly,” Buros said. “If it did, we could triple this unit in the existing space, plus we have other places for expansion in the four-county area.”
Buros said the co-op is also looking at other renewable energy prospects for its members.
“We are focused on this project for the time being, but we’re always looking for other renewable energy options that could save our members money,” Buros said.
Call 1-800-858-5522 or visit the Jo-Carroll Energy website, www.jocarroll.com, for more information about the co-op's solar energy project.