3 MN River Valley Counties May Host Solar Farms

Geronimo solar sites in Minnesota

In 2013, the number of solar jobs increased by 73% in Minnesota according to a report released by the Solar Foundation this month. That is good news for renewable energy advocates who worked hard in 2013 to pass new solar laws for Minnesota to ensure the health of our environment, people, and economy.  This success means that Minnesota’s legislative leaders have adopted the strongest set of solar policies in the Midwest.

Here are the 5 provisions that made up the 2013 Solar Energy Legislation in Minnesota:

  • 1.5% solar energy standard for public utilities by the end of 2020 (for investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy, Otter Tail Power and Minnesota Power)
  • Solar energy may be reimbursed at a new “Value of Solar” rate
  • Xcel Energy’s Solar Incentive Program
  • Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Garden Program
  • “Made in Minnesota” Solar Incentives

Click here for more information on each of the provisions.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required Xcel Energy to seek project bids to meet new demand for electricity in the coming years. An Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman reviewed whether Xcel Energy should invest in new natural gas generators or large solar power arrays. Because of the new solar legislation and the increasing economic viability of solar energy, Lipman, in an unprecedented ruling, concluded in December of last year that solar is a better deal. According to Fresh Energy, this will likely result in a nearly 30-fold increase in solar generation in Minnesota over the next six years. For more information and background, read Michael Noble’s post on Fresh Energy’s blog, “How solar beat gas in Minnesota.”

Geronimo Chippewa Solar FarmGeronimo, a large-scale solar energy developer located in Minneapolis, proposed the solar project as an alternative to the gas plants proposed by Xcel Energy.  If the judge’s decision is upheld by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (a vote has not been scheduled yet), the company will build solar farms in 2015 and 2016 on sites across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million. It already has the necessary land, as well as extra land if an issue occurs with the preferred sites. Minnesota River Valley counties such as Chippewa, Blue Earth and Le Sueur are the 3 out of 17 counties located across central, eastern and southeastern Minnesota that will host a Geronimo solar farm. Each of the 3 solar farms will occupy a total of 89 acres and produce a combined 19,665 Mega Watt Hours per year.

This is good news to the nearly 83% of Americans who say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs. According to a recently released report, Public Support for Climate & Energy Policy, a majority of Democrats and Republicans support several climate and energy policies. 82% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels. Bipartisan support for renewable energy is expected to grow as this industry shows its positive effects on the economy, the environment and on communities across the state of Minnesota.

 Solar Energy Resources

Are you interested in utilizing solar energy for your home or commercial building?  There is a great list of solar companies in Minnesota that will install solar. Click here for that list.

Additional information and resources about this issue:

Post by Sarina Otaibi, CURE Director of Communications & Engagement.