Driving along U.S. Highway 82 on the west side of Glynn County, it is hard to miss the 10 acre, 1.86 MW, fixed position solar array on the north side of the roadway. It, along with two 1 kW arrays – one in Kingsland and the other in Hilliard, Fla. – is the backbone of Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation’s (OREMC) Cooperative Solar program.
OREMC is an electric cooperative powering the lives of nearly 38,000 residential consumer-members, commercial and industrial accounts in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida. OREMC’s service area includes Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Glynn, Ware and Wayne counties in Georgia, as well as Baker and Nassau counties in Florida.
“The Cooperative Solar program provides OREMC consumer-members the economic opportunity to personally participate in the utilization of renewable energy,” explains Darren Crews, OREMC’s manager of engineering. With Cooperative Solar, consumer-members elect to purchase solar power without the financial investment or ongoing maintenance of installing a rooftop or yard array. For many energy consumers who are thinking about going solar, concern for the environment and seeking ways to reduce their individual carbon footprints are chief among their reasons for wanting to pursue a renewable energy option.
The benefits of solar to help achieve these goals are without question:
• Solar is a fully renewable resource. By harnessing the power of the sun, we generate green power that doesn’t emit any pollutants into the atmosphere.
• Once installed, solar is sustainable and needs relatively low maintenance.
• It is an investment in the future to offset the rising costs – monetarily and environmentally – of fossil fuels.
However, the costs for individual homeowners to install rooftop solar or a yard-based array are in the thousands of dollars, plus the additional cost of batteries to store excess energy. In addition to costs, other considerations for going solar are:
• Is your roof/yard shaded?
• Does the roof face the proper direction for optimum sunlight?
• Is your roof suitable? How old is it? Is it in good repair?
• Do you want to lease or buy solar panels?
• How much solar power do you want to generate?
“OREMC is among the first cooperatives in Georgia to partner with Green Mountain EMC and install a community solar array,” notes OREMC General Manager John Middleton. “Solar power costs have become more affordable and we knew our consumer-members had an interest in renewable energy. However, very few are willing to make the significant financial investment to install their own system. That makes our community, subscription based Cooperative Solar, a viable option.”
With Cooperative Solar, you get to choose the right amount of solar energy you want to subscribe to from OREMC. Blocks of solar energy are billed monthly at $20 and produce approximately 120-200 kWh per month. The electricity delivered to your home through the power grid is calculated and the solar energy generated from your share of the total capacity will be credited back to you.
“OREMC consumer-members can sign up for one block or multiple blocks based on their usage,” explains Middleton. “There are no upfront costs, no worries about ongoing maintenance that go along with ownership of a system, and there is no long-term commitment.
OREMC’s Cooperative Solar was developed in direct response to consumer-members asking for access to an affordable solar option; having the cooperative itself pursue and promote sustainable practices; and taking a balanced approach in meeting energy needs through a mix of renewable and traditional power sources.
Adds Crews, “As an electric utility, it is our responsibility to understand and explore renewable energy resources available within our geographic region. Currently, solar is the most abundant resource available.”
If you are interested in the benefits of solar but are concerned about costs, have a shaded roof/yard, there are restrictive homeowner covenants or you’re a renter, OREMC’s Cooperative Solar program puts “going solar” within your reach. Not only does it provide that balanced approach to energy production, it provides individual consumer-members an easy way to include renewable energy in their overall usage mix.
Keep in mind the monthly output from each share varies due to the position of the sun, time of year and number of cloudy days. Therefore, Cooperative Solar subscribers will receive different amounts of solar energy each month based on the available sunlight.