The nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) has launched the Morris and Southwest Prairie Solar Co-op to help homeowners, farmers and small businesses go solar.

Partnering on the co-op are Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), Land Stewardship Project (LSP), and the Morris Model.

“The co-op is a way for people in southwestern Minnesota to join together and get the best price and service from solar installation companies,” said Bobby King, Minnesota program director for SUN. “The group enables them to tap into the expertise here at SUN and to support each other through the process of learning about solar and selecting and installing solar systems.”

Together, co-op members will learn about solar energy and leverage their numbers to ensure competitive pricing and quality solar installations, according to King.

The co-op is free to join and open to homeowners and business owners in the following counties: Big Stone, Brown, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Douglas, Grant, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Yellow Medicine.

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After a competitive bidding process facilitated by Solar United Neighbors, co-op members will select a single solar company to complete the installations. Joining the co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase panels and electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate.

“Seeing more Minnesotans, especially rural Minnesotans, go solar is core to CURE’s vision of vibrant rural communities and energy democracy,” said Erik Hatlestad, energy democracy director for CURE. “Energy democracy means locally produced energy, clean energy, and energy produced for and by the community.”

"The opportunity to be a partner in this effort to help Morris area homeowners and small business owners go solar is exactly what the Morris Model is all about — community, locally produced clean energy, and smart partnerships,” said Eric Buchanan, Morris Model team member and renewable energy scientist at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.

Solar United Neighbors has hosted nine other solar co-ops in Minnesota since 2017. According to the group’s estimates, the 75 homes and businesses that now have solar panels because of co-ops represent: 533.8 kW of solar power, $1.7 million in local solar spending, and more than 19.6 million lbs. of lifetime carbon offsets.

Solar United Neighbors will host several free informational webinars to educate community members about solar energy and the co-op:

Additionally, SUN will host a free webinar for farmers and rural small business owners interested in learning how to install solar with a grant from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program:

Individuals interested in going solar can sign up for the co-op or one of the upcoming information sessions at the co-op web page, or by contacting Bobby King at 507-450-7258 or bking@solarunitedneighbors.org.

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in Minnesota and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters.