WORTHINGTON - The Worthington Water & Light Commission adopted a policy at its Monday meeting making it possible for local residents to pursue green energy through the installation of solar projects.

Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain said the policy hasn’t been driven by customers, but rather is a required document of WPU in the event customers want to install solar panels.

Currently, the cost for solar doesn’t compete with the city’s low utility rates, but that may not always be the case.

“You don’t know what will happen if the cost of solar continues to come down, or if retail rates go up,” Hain said. “There are people who invest in things for different reasons - they believe in it or want to save the environment. If the motivation is purely financial, in my opinion rooftop (the cost-effectiveness of solar panels) isn’t there yet. I don’t know if it ever will be.”

“When it’s 9 cents a kilowatt here and in New York City it’s 21 cents a kilowatt, it makes energy conservation efforts a tough sell here,” commission member Lyle Ten Haken said.

Hain said there is interest in solar and the WPU needs to be prepared for inquiries from customers. With the passage of Monday’s policy, residents may now apply for a solar project.

He also spoke about the potential for a community solar garden in which individuals could purchase a share in a project. The WPU isn’t prepared to offer such a project at this time, but Hain said he sees more advantages in a community project than in individual projects on residential homes.

“The bottom line is, even with the price coming down, there are very few homes that have a good solar regime - south-facing rooms not obstructed by trees,” he said.

In other business, the board:

  • Elected Gary Hoffman as president, Mike Harmon as vice president and Deb Scheidt as secretary of the Water & Light Commission.
  • Noted that Bob Westphal retired Friday after 41½ years with Worthington Public Utilities. Westphal took all of the well water measurements for the department.
  • Discussed the annual meeting of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System that is planned later this month in Tea, S.D. Hain said he anticipates several local legislators will be present if the Minnesota Legislature approves the final funding needed to build the water pipeline to Worthington. Currently, there is legislation in the House and Senate for Lewis & Clark to get the $11.5 million it needs for the project, and Dayton also supports the funding.