Re: Prairie View Solar Array

To the Public:

There had been much misinformation regarding Prairie View's plan to install a solar array on their property. The purpose of this letter is to explain the facts and steps we have taken.

Our first discussions concerning this project were early this year. We did considerable research. Like wind farms, the installation of solar panels would allow an owner to claim tax credits. Right now, those tax credits are 31% of the cost of the purchase and installation of the proposed "array." Prairie View cannot use those credits since it is a tax-exempt organization.

The Board discussed financing the system's purchase ourselves and found that to purchase and finance it would cost Prairie View approximately $600,000 over twenty years. Our monthly payments would remain the same as they are now for our energy usage and would not rise over the lifetime of the array.

We also looked at various city ordinances concerning solar. We found that some only allow solar systems on roofs, but most on both ground and roof installation. We know that at least one city does not allow solar arrays at all. The City of Garner does not explicitly have a solar ordinance allowing or not allowing solar arrays.

The existing ordinance we feel would govern is somewhat confusing. The Board feels that we can build the system. The neighbors feel we cannot, as it would exceed 1,080, which is the limitation of the size of a “building” built on an existing residential property. The ordinance may be ambiguous as it states a structure is a building, but later, the ordinance states a building has a roof, so the Board feels this is not a building and could be built under the existing ordinance. However the Board decided to wait for an ordinance.

The City appointed representatives of the community to discuss and explore solar operations. After they made suggestions to the City, the proposed ordinance went to the Zoning Board, which passed a proposed ordinance. However, the City Council failed to pass the ordinance. Needless to say, we were disappointed.

The Board planned to allow an investor to purchase the system and rent it for five years. The purchaser could use the tax credits mentioned above. At the end of five years, Prairie View would purchase the system after it had been depreciated significantly by the investor. It would purchase on contract with the investor at a fixed rate of interest. The total cost of rent, interest, and the purchase over those twelve years would have been $400,000. Since interest rates have increased, the costs would be more, but still significantly less than the overall cost should we finance a purchase ourselves. Please keep in mind our monthly payment remains the same as our current utility bill in either scenario.

Utility rates have been increasing at 3.2% annually. As indicated above, our rate would have been fixed with all payments being what we are currently paying with no increase. The system warranties range from fifteen years for some of the most costly parts to twenty-five years for the most costly. So, other than minor repairs, there would have been little cost for repairs over the system's life. It would also be expected to last longer than 25 years.

At the end of the twelve years with an investor purchasing, we would have paid the total cost. There would be no additional costs to Prairie View other than those repairs until the system became obsolete. Based on current rate increases over that final thirteen-year period, Prairie View would have saved over $700,000. Based upon anticipated rates of the 3.2% increase per year, our best estimate of our savings is over a million dollars over the twenty-five year lifetime of the array. That savings would be passed on to our tenants, and the last thirteen years would see savings of $1,000 per resident to $1,300 per year at a minimum.

The Board has consulted the solar company and Dean Sonquist at Plas-Tech. Plas-Tech currently has a system for his business and will install another system once it has completed its new addition. Dean has been of significant help to us, and we appreciate his guidance. The Board has also consulted other businesses about their use. There are several larger arrays, including NIACC, which used the same company from which we intend to purchase the system.

One other fact that has been continually misstated is what happens to the system when it can no longer be used. Like the obsolete windmill system, you may have been informed the solar units will be filling landfills. That is absolutely untrue. Over 95% of the system can be recycled, and very little of the system is what we refer to as hazardous materials.

Prairie View has tried to be a good neighbor and waited for the City Council to adopt an ordinance. We have tried to work with the neighbors. The neighbors were upset because word of this was out without our having discussed same with them. Unfortunately, while that is true, that word was out long before we had completed even our initial discussions.

We would be happy to discuss this proposal with any community members. Please feel free to contact Marline at Prairie View to set up an appointment.



Prairie View Board:

Ronna Myers, Mike Bahnsen, Court Christenson, Michelle Dornbier, Debra Schmidt, Julia Schultz, Kathy Upmeyer, Bill Waddingham, Don Stubbs, Laura Zwiefel, Phil Garland


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