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City of Willmar to consider solar and wind payment rate

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will be asked to conduct a public hearing next month on a proposed rate that Willmar Municipal Utilities would pay to electric customers who generate excess electricity from solar and wind facilities.

WILLMAR - The Willmar City Council will be asked to conduct a public hearing next month on a proposed rate that Willmar Municipal Utilities would pay to electric customers who generate excess electricity from solar and wind facilities.
The Finance Committee will recommend the council hold the hearing July 6 to consider an ordinance amendment that would allow the utilities to pay 10.03 cents per kilowatt-hour to customers for their excess electricity. The council will consider the committee’s recommendation June 15.
Under state statute, when the energy generated by a “qualifying facility’’ exceeds that supplied by the utility during a billing period, the utility must compensate the qualifying facility for the excess energy at the “average retail utility energy rate.’’
The payment amount is calculated on a state formula using Willmar’s 2015 electric rates.
The committee voted Monday afternoon to recommend the hearing after Utilities Finance Director Tim Hunstad said the utilities has received its first application for a hookup to the Willmar grid of a solar generating facility on top of a residential structure. Under state law, Hunstad said, the utility is required to establish the rate, which the utility would pay to the customer at the end of each month.
“This is not a rate that we are charging,’’ Hunstad said. “We would be paying them if they generate a net amount of electricity.’’
He said the Municipal Utilities Commission conducted its own public hearing Monday and voted to recommend the council hold a hearing on the rate.
Hunstad said he knows the name of the applicant, but said he did not know the address of the residential structure.
He also said the utility has received a second application.
Councilman Denis Anderson, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he had a concern about the potential location of the solar panels.
Archery range

 
In other business, the committee voted to recommended the council increase the Public Works budget by $2,145 to help cover the $3,390 cost of improvements at the new archery range located at the former wastewater treatment plant site in southeast Willmar.
The improvements included eight new target butts, a storage shed to hold equipment, and shooting line made of crushed granite. Most of the cost was covered by a $1,500 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and by a $645 donation from the Little Crow Archers, according to Steve Brisendine, Community Education and Recreation director.
The remainder of the cost was covered by city staff time. Committee member Audrey Nelsen said the city’s tree-planting event took place at the archery site and she said a concrete base was placed there for the storage shed. Finance Director Steve Okins said the cost of the concrete applies toward the cost of the project.
Anderson noted that an archery event held last weekend attracted a large number of people.
Recycling project

 
Also, the committee voted to recommend the council appropriate $6,000 toward Lakeland Broadcasting’s “Going Green’’ project in September in which local residents are encouraged to bring unwanted items to the Recycling Center.
Okins said the city had budgeted $6,000 toward participation in the last Going Green event in 2013. He said the money was used for advertising. But the project was not budgeted for 2015.
Okins said Mayor Marv Calvin asked staff to find additional dollars for this year’s event. Staff looked for excess funds in other budget areas and recommended funding the event from higher-than-expected building permit revenues.

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