The Land of 10,000 Panels: Minnesota 0


When one thinks of solar, you think of somewhere with plenty of sunshine and hot days; don’t tell the folks in Minnesota this.  After passing a new bill into law, Minnesota is on the fast track to becoming an awesome state for solar generation.  During the week of May 23rd, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton passed the state’s “Solar Energy Jobs Act” into law, making Minnesota the 17th state in the U.S. to create a standard specifically for solar energy.

<--break->When you look at a distribution of solar PV resource potentials in the United States, and other parts of the world, Minnesota ranks fairly low.  However, when compared to Germany, the world’s largest solar energy market, Minnesota has about 50% more solar PV resource potential per area.  Although the state’s resource falls short to that of Arizona and California, the new bill will cause the Minnesota solar market to get HOT!

The bill includes 4 aspects making Minnesota so awesome for solar:

  1. A utility portfolio standard for solar energy, requiring 1.5% of the state’s electricity to come from solar by 2020, and a goal of 10% by 2030.  Along with this standard, 10% of this generated capacity must come from projects under 20 KW.

  2. Community based solar projects, or solar gardens, where citizens make a solar investment and in return, own a percentage of these projects and earn financial compensation from the power it produces.  Because only an estimated ⅓ of people in Minnesota have houses suitable for solar, this provides a platform for anyone to get involved in these projects.

  3. A 1-year renewable feasibility study to assess to state’s capabilities of reaching 40% electrical generation from renewables by 2030.

  4. Special incentives for purchased solar panels manufactured in Minnesota, promoting a sense of pride, while helping create an estimated 2,000 jobs in the first year of the bill.

Minnesota currently sits on 13 MW of solar generation.  This new bill will require the addition of over 450 MW solar capacity to their utility portfolio, causing a boom in their solar market.  And if Minnesota can meet their future goal of 10% solar generation by 2030, they will have more than doubled the solar standard of the next closest state, Arizona (4.5% by 2025), and set the bar for the rest of the U.S.

With requirements for small-scale, community based solar, similar to Germany, Minnesota can create an environment of energy that is owned by people, rather than commercial corporations or municipalities, in which everyone can participate.  In a period when the price of solar is at an all-time low, what better time than now?  Implementing this bill didn’t just make economic sense, it made common sense.

Although many people would think Minnesota to be one of the last places to find solar, their efforts show that even with fewer resources, a vision to invest in smart political, economical, and environmental decisions can help set a national standard.  Things in Minnesota are looking up, and not just the solar panels.

(Photo courtesy of Star Tribune)

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