Bloomington Solar Initiatives

Outcomes and Conclusions

As of early 2020, Bloomington had installed solar energy systems at 32 City locations, providing an estimated 2.1 MW of solar capacity and an additional 1.8 MW of solar capacity has been added through their partnership with SIREN. The City also released an online solar dashboard that allows anyone to see the current and past renewable electricity generation for municipal facilities in an interactive manner. The City of Bloomington was recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner for municipal solar electricity generation.

The installed solar capacity does not offset the facilities’ entire electric use. However, some solar sites generate more electricity than they use. This excess energy is sent back to the grid and the City receives a bill credit through net metering. Between July 18, 2018 and June 19, 2019, the City received a $70,000 bill credit from Duke Energy as a result of net metering.

Monroe County, where Bloomington is located, comprises close to 20% of the individual solar installations in the state of Indiana. When looking at Duke Energy net metering customers in Indiana, Monroe County accounts for 40%. 

Additional solar capacity is expected to come online at City facilities, including on the parking garages, and Solarize Bloomington is continuing its program to encourage more residents to install solar. 

Challenges

The City faced a couple of challenges throughout the process. At one point, the City was facing time constraints, and because of the structure of the GESC, the City had limited control over subcontractors. These subcontractors were chosen by the contractor and in some instances were not as experienced in solar installation. At some locations, the subcontractors initially installed panels improperly, without proper protection, or in spots that were unfit for the solar panels. Most of the reason for these issues was a result of the rush to install the panels before the end of 2017. Luckily, a GESC requires the contractor to generate the energy they have committed to under the contract, otherwise, the contractor must pay the difference between the guaranteed savings and the actual savings

Another issue was installing in sites that are considered multi-tenant or multi-retail. These sites are more challenging because each tenant must be considered separate, which requires additional installation and monitoring to properly determine where the energy is going and who is being charged or reimbursed.

Alex Crowley, director of Bloomington’s Office of Economic and Sustainable Development said, “It is important to pick your energy savings partner carefully and know their experience and how they will lean on subcontractors, especially if you are operating under a time crunch.”  

Project Resources

For more information on Bloomington's solar initiatives, contact:

Lauren Travis
Bloomington Office of Economic and Sustainable Development
Assistant Director of Sustainability
lauren.travis@bloomington.in.gov
812-349-3418