Minnesota: Will Solar Power Make the Star of the North the Sun of the North?

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Minnesota, a state not known for its abundant sunshine, grows its solar power potential. The new Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive aims to boost solar power in the state.

Minnesota, the “Star of the North,” is not known for its sunshine — or its solar installations. But that could be changing.

Last year, we reported on some unexpected solar markets that were starting to emerge in the U.S. One of those was not-so-sunny Minnesota, whose solar-positive policies are making up for its low insolation and low grid power rates.

 

Adding to the favorable solar climate in the state was the “Made in Minnesota” Solar Incentive launched by the Minnesota Department of Commerce last year. The 10-year, $15-million-a-year program is intended to boost Minnesota’s solar power generation.

 

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the program will make it much more affordable for homeowners to go solar.

 

To be eligible for the program, homeowners must be customers of investor-owned utilities Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, or Otter Tail Power. In addition, the PV or thermal system they install must use solar modules and collectors certified as manufactured in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Commerce site details what qualifies as Made in Minnesota Certified.

 

The program is also open to developers of larger projects such as community solar gardens.

 

Applications the program will be accepted each year for ten years, in the window from January 1 to February 28.

 

The program is administered by the Department of Commerce with an annual budget of up to $15 million for ten years, including $250,000 per year for solar thermal rebates.

 

By some estimates, residential customers going solar with this program could save more than half the cost of their system, by combining the new incentives with the 30% federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit and a state sales tax exemption on solar equipment.

 

This boost to solar in Minnesota accompanies other recent wins for solar in the state. Last year ended with an administrative law judge recommending a large solar project over five other proposals, most of which were for natural gas facilities. Significant about this was that the judge based the recommendation on economic factors — the solar project simply penciled out better.

 

The state has seen a number of other proposals recently for large solar projects. Between these and the new residential installations likely to come online, Minnesota could indeed become a major solar player.