Residents in 22 counties – including Douglas – have until Thursday, April 1 to join a cooperative for solar energy.

The Morris and Southwest Prairie Solar Co-op has selected Solar Farm LLC as the co-op’s installer. The group is working with the nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors (SUN) to learn about solar and have systems installed on their homes.

Co-op members worked together to select Solar Farm LLC through an open and competitive bidding process. The solar co-op has three-dozen members and is accepting new sign-ups through April 1.

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

“If you’ve ever thought about going solar, now is your chance,” said Bobby King, Minnesota program director for SUN. “Going solar helps you save money and take control of where your electricity comes from.”

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

“We’re honored to be selected as the solar installer for the Morris and Southwest Prairie Solar Co-op,” James Darabi, owner of Solar Farm. “We love this part of Minnesota and have done several installations in the part of the state. Rural communities and farm businesses have always been a priority for us.”

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.

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.

“By bringing more solar to our rural communities, we’re helping these communities thrive while working towards energy democracy for all Minnesotans,” said Erik Hatlestad, energy democracy director for CURE. “Energy democracy means locally produced energy, clean energy, and energy produced for and by the community.”

“It’s more important than ever to invest in resilient communities,” said Eric Buchanan, Morris Model team member and renewable energy scientist at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris. “Solar panels, combined with a battery system, are a great way to protect homeowners and businesses from blackouts and create a more resilient grid for everyone. That's exactly what the Morris Model is all about: sustainable communities and community resilience.”

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.

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

Solar United Neighbors is hosting a free information session on Thursday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for community members to learn about solar energy and the co-op. Those interested can RSVP here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4AuK37e3Tt-9sqr44Q78Ww.