Solar garden group touts potential $1.9 million savings to St. Michael

The St. Michael City Council heard of the potential to save nearly $2 million in energy costs.

Community Development Director introduced Gordy Simanton of SolarStone Partners to explain solar garden subscriptions.

Simanton reviewed a list of public entities in the state that have already subscribed to the solar gardens.

During the past 12 years, he noted that Xcel Energy’s rates have increased an average of 4.5 percent per year. Based on projecting Xcel rates to increase 3.5 percent per year for the next 25 years, he said St. Michael could save $1.9 million in those 25 years by subscribing to solar energy.

Councilor Keith Wettschreck asked about business subsidies available for solar energy, and Simanton said developers don’t receive subsidies, but that they can take advantage of 30 percent savings through 2019.

It was noted there is no provision in the subscription contract if Xcel’s rates decrease during the 25 years, which would be the main risk associated with solar energy. Some organizations thus have concerns about entering into such a lengthy contract.

Simanton said there are termination fees detailed in the contract should the subscriber cancel the subscription prior to 25 years.

The council also asked about capital (repair/maintenance) costs associated with solar gardens, and Simanton said each garden operator is contractually obligated to provide a certain amount of energy to Xcel, but that the energy subscribers are not responsible for capital costs or maintenance fees associated with the solar garden.

Staff said St. Michael could purchase subscriptions from multiple solar providers if desired.

Mayor Kevin Kasel and councilors Cody Gulick, Matt Kammann, Nadine Schoen and Wettschreck thanked Simanton for the information and suggested discussing the matter at a future council work session before soliciting bids from various solar energy companies.

In other action, the council:

HEARD from Mayor Kasel regarding the STMA Ice Arena expansion project for a second sheet of ice. He recommended the council review the costs and proposed agreement at a work session. Despite some concerns with the agreement, Kasel feels it will be overall financially advantageous for the city long-term to be a partner with Albertville and the school district (the cities and school district co-own the facility).

HEARD from Terry Beaudry of the SOAR Performing Arts. SOAR (St. Michael, Otsego, Albertville, Rogers) started with 35 students and one performance yearly to now more than 100 students and seven performances throughout the year. Beaudry said he appreciates the space in St. Michael to rent and that they are looking for more space to grow.

HEARD that the Black Market Soccer group recently gave an $800 donation to the city for the use of soccer fields. Community Development Director Bot explained Black Market started from a mom who wanted to offer a more affordable soccer program in the area. The first year started with 34 kids and it is now up to 243 kids. He acknowledged the donation, saying it is appreciated since the city does spend time and resources maintaining the fields for use.