Sara and Peter Ribbens

Peter Ribbens in front of house with solar panels on roofJune 2023 – Edina’s  city limits encompass roughly 17,000 buildings. According to an energy potentials study commissioned in 2021, nearly 12,000 of these structures are good candidates for rooftop solar panels. So far, only a fraction are so equipped. 

Sara and Peter Ribbens are proud to be among the early adopters. 

“Solar was something we’d wanted to explore for a long time,” Sara explained. Peter’s mother first piqued their interest in renewable energy more than 30 years ago when she installed a solar hot water heater in her Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home. 

The couple began seriously exploring options for their Prospect Knolls property in January 2021. “We felt that as the cost of electricity continues to go up, creating our own energy to [offset] consumption would benefit us over the long run.”

After researching different vendors, the Ribbenses selected Blaine-based Cedar Creek Energy to design and install a solar solution specially tailored to the size and shape of their house. 

As the couple learned, orientation is an equally important consideration. At Edina’s latitude, flat and south-facing surfaces are almost always strong contenders for solar panels. By contrast, tilted roofs facing east ordinarily capture less sun, and many west-facing rooftops are susceptible to a counterproductive “self-shading” effect. 

In consultation with their team of experts, Sara and Peter landed on an Enphase brand array comprised of 25 south-facing roof panels. Each offers an energy-capturing surface about 40 inches long and 80 inches wide. 

Installation and wiring took place over the course of a week in May 2022. Xcel Energy connected the renewable energy array to the power grid two months later. The Ribbenses have been net exporters of energy, measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), ever since. 

Although it will take years to recoup the up-front expenses, federal tax benefits and Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards rebate program will expedite the return on investment.Peter Ribbens standing next to electric meter and solar controls at his home

“Even though we didn’t start generating power until July, we still had an electric bill credit on our account as of February,” Peter said. 

Solar energy technology has advanced lightyears since Peter’s mother outfitted her Milwaukee home with a solar-powered hot water heater all those years ago. Sara and Peter can measure their energy production with pinpoint accuracy. 

“Enphase provides a cellphone app to monitor system performance. We can track hourly, daily, monthly, yearly and even system lifetime performance,” Peter shared. 

While the new equipment is certainly efficient, Peter says that the couple’s ability to export kilowatt hours to the electrical grid is also helped by their switch to other “green” practices. 

“As most people interested in solar know, energy conservation is a first step in making solar power pay. In our case, all our lighting is now LED-based,” Peter said. “In recent years, it has started to make good economic sense for [everyone to start] replacing incandescent lamps with LED.”

Sara and Peter have another piece of advice for other Edina homeowners considering solar: give careful thought to auxiliary power options for those rare days when something goes wrong. 

“Not all solar systems provide house power when Xcel’s power grid fails, even when the sun is shining bright. Our Enphase system does.” Where that’s not the case: “People should weigh the cost of a battery versus a generator – or having no system backup at all. A generator is initially cheaper than the battery solution, but comes with long-term maintenance requirements like running it on a monthly basis and annual oil changes.”

While the many options for customization may seem overwhelming at first, the Ribbenses stress that an experienced contractor like Cedar Creek Energy can help make sense of the possibilities. You just have to take the first step and reach out. 

Select rooftop solar projects are eligible for cost-share savings through the City of Edina's Community Climate Action Fund