The Lakeland PBS Solar Project
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TV stations like ours are big consumers of electricity. We pay thousands of dollars per month for electricity to operate our transmitter sites and offices. We’re excited to tell you about a new project we just completed here at Lakeland PBS that will help with our electric bill and will also help the environment. We just finished up the installation of a large photovoltaic solar array at our headquarters in Bemidji. This solar electric power system is anticipated to generate about 45,000 kWh of energy annually and will reduce our electric bill by well over $400 per month. This electricity savings will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the system.
Solar electric systems are generating a lot of interest right now. Organizations want to be seen as “green”. Most organizations that install solar electric systems do so as a “turn-key” project. That means that they hire one firm to do the entire project. There are many advantages of doing this because this firm is responsible for everything and you have no responsibilities other than writing a check when the project is done. The one disadvantage to this approach is that it’s expensive. You will certainly be doing the right thing for the environment with a turn-key project like this, but a turn-key solar project may ultimately not make good financial sense when you analyze the numbers due to the added expense and overhead.
Here at Lakeland PBS, we had the expertise to be the general contractor for our project. We researched and purchased the components and hired an electrical contractor to do the electrical installation and wiring. We also did as much of the physical work as possible and had our electrical contractor do the rest. This saved us a great deal of money. In addition, Otter Tail Power has a remarkable rebate program for solar electric installations on public buildings in the form of a cash rebate of $1,250 per kW of installed solar panels or 50% of the project cost, whichever was less. This rebate saved us 50% of the cost of the project and we will receive a rebate check from Otter Tail Power for well over $30,000! This rebate, along with us doing a lot of the work turned a questionable project into one that made perfect sense. Lakeland PBS’ installed cost for our complete system is about $0.80 per installed watt of capacity after the Otter Tail Power rebate. This is a fantastic number that very few installations can match and allows this installation to pay for itself in 5-6 years. With a 25-30 year useful life, the system will be both helping the environment and saving Lakeland PBS money for many years to come. We would like to thank Derek Hanson from Hanson Contracting, our electrical contractor, and also Otter Tail Power for their encouragement and fantastic rebate program. Both were great to work with and made the project not just possible, but fun as well.