Central Electric Cooperative and the spread of solar energy


Central Electric solar panels.

In the summer of 2015, Central Electric Cooperative General Manager Ken Schlimgen spearheaded a project that brought a solar array to its headquarters building in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Central Electric’s solar array consists of 36 photovoltaic, or PV, panels that can produce up to 1,400 kilowatt hours per month. Once produced, the power generated from the array is safely put back into the grid.

The co-op tracks several aspects of this project, including the amount of power it generates, when the power is produced (time of day and season), and environmental factors and how they affect production (such as when snow or dust covers the panels, or a cloud moves over the array). The co-op used this data and overlaid it on the house of an employee, which showed a disparity between when the power is being produced versus when it is being used.

Seeing members’ interest, Central Electric’s board and staff felt they should move forward to provide them with more information beyond just their project. However, because they are true stewards of their members’ resources, they chose to survey the membership to make sure they developed the information the members wanted.

In the spirit of cooperation among cooperatives, Central Electric joined with three neighboring co-ops on the survey: Dakota Energy Cooperative in Huron, South Dakota; Charles Mix Electric in Lake Andes, South Dakota; and Bon Homme Yankton Electric in Tabor, South Dakota, all of which were also researching solar. This allowed the co-ops to pool their resources to result in a better product.

To see what the survey showed, read the full story in the Spring 2018 issue of Basin Today: Central Electric striving to be members’ one-stop-shop for solar information.

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