SWLP Breaks Ground On Superior Solar Garden, Still Looking To Fill Spaces
A project that had its start before the pandemic has finally seen the 'sunshine'. Officials with Superior Water Light and Power - along with City of Superior and other community leaders - broke ground on the 470-kilowatt solar garden they're building in Superior along 28th Street near Heritage Park on September 8. The ceremony marked the start of visible progress on the project that's expected to be online and producing electricity by the middle of next year.
Once completed, the electric-generating solar garden will representa return to form for the community and the utility. SWLP President Rob Sandstrom explained the significance during the ground breaking ceremony:
"Superior Water, Light and Power has not had its own electric generation since the Winslow Station closed in the early 80's. Today is a historic day as we bring electric generation back to our community, only this time in a carbon-free way."
And it appears that the project will be a success. When the ceremonial shovels moved the dirt at the ground breaking, the solar garden was already 90-percent full of subscribers.
That 90-percent subscriber rate - prior to the ground breaking - represents good news for the utility and investors. While there was initial positive response, the pandemic tamped it down. Sandstrom explains:
"The project has a lot of momentum in 2019 [when it was first announced]. Then the pandemic hit and much of our initial customer interest shifted to other priorities. Nevertheless, the project team pressed on and found ways to engage our customers."
SWLP had an internal team that led the way. "Team Sunshine" - which was led by SWLP Project Manager Joscelyn Skandel played a major role. Sandstrom "credited Team Sunshine....for bringing the project across the goal line":
"The team, led by Joscelyn, brought our subscription rate from just 20-percent a year ago to 90-percent today".
While there are private, individual solar panel subscribers/investors, the project also has brought together some larger players. "Among the largest subscribers to the project are Essentia Health, National Bank of Commerce, the City of Superior, and the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce".
Looking at the solar garden as a whole, while those commercial and business investors are large in scale in their industry, they "only represent about 50-percent of all the customers who have subscribed....so far". Residential and private investors/subscribers represent the other half.
That said, there are still spaces left for individuals who are interested in buying solar panel space. SWLP shares that they have enough blocks available "for about a dozen homes". To learn more or to subscribe, visit SWLP.com/solar or call 715-395-6220.