Minnesota businesses embrace community solar - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Finance, Industrial, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  February 16, 2017

Red Wing Shoe inks 25-year community solar deal

Photo of a solar farm under construction in Minnesota provided by NRG Energy.

The latest to join a growing list of American businesses turning to renewable energy to help power their operations, Minnesota-based Red Wing Shoe Co. recently signed subscription agreements for electricity from two community solar farms

The deal represents the more than 100-year old company's first direct investment in clean energy, planning and procurement director Darwin Fox told Smart Energy Decisions. 

In a Feb. 16 news release, Red Wing said it is subscribed to roughly 4 million annual kilowatt-hours — approximately one-quarter of the company's electricity consumption in Minnesota for its plants, warehouses, headquarters and other facilities — through a 25-year agreement with NRG Energy Inc. The privately held company specializes in the design, production and distribution of work, safety and lifestyle footwear and work apparel.

The projects are being built in Minnesota's Olmstead and Dodge counties under a state community solar program established through the same law that requires that Xcel source 1.5% of its electricity sales in the state from solar energy by 2020. The solar farms will deliver electricity into the local grid, and as a subscriber of 40% — the maximum allowed amount — of their 6-MW combined capacity, Red Wing will receive its share of electricity credits from Xcel on its utility bills.

Red Wing said the anticipated bill credits associated with the community solar subscriptions will result in significant, long-term cost savings. CEO Mark Urdahl said the decision to execute the solar subscription agreements made sense for Red Wing on many levels. 

"It is the right thing to do for our planet and future generations, and it sets a positive example for our employees, customers and other stakeholders," Urdahl said. "What's more, it provides more predictability and control in our energy prices without interrupting our business operations."

The company said its investment in renewable energy is part of its ongoing but increasing commitment to environmental sustainability. Red Wing said it not only locally sources its high-quality, long-lasting products, but minimizes waste and relies on non-ozone depleting materials (for example, using an eco-friendly polyurethane alternative) as much as possible. Other recent efforts include changing much of the lighting in its production environments to energy-saving LEDs.

The Red Wing solar farms are two of many community solar projects NRG is constructing in Minnesota and across the country with both businesses and residential subscribers. The power company in late 2016 announced similar agreements in the state with companies such as Land O'Lakes Inc., Macy's and Ecolab Inc. 

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