Solar Energy and Community Solar in Minnesota [2024 Guide]

Sun setting over solar panels at a community solar farm in Minnesota
  • Apr 1, 2024

Minnesota, known for its cold winters and beautiful lakes, is also emerging as a leader in the adoption of solar energy. With progressive policies and a growing number of solar installations, the state is proving that solar power is not only feasible but advantageous, even in colder climates. This article will explore solar energy in Minnesota, focusing on the environmental and financial benefits, community solar projects, and incentives available for residents and businesses.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy involves converting sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells capture photons from sunlight, which then generate a flow of electrons, producing electricity. Solar power provides a clean, renewable energy source that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Benefits of Solar Power in Minnesota

Despite its northern location, Minnesota has the potential to harness significant solar energy, offering various environmental benefits:

1. Reducing dependence on non-renewable energy: Solar power provides a renewable energy source that can help reduce the state's dependence on non-renewable sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas.

2. Protecting wildlife: Conventional energy sources like fossil fuels can harm wildlife through habitat loss and pollution. By switching to solar power, Minnesota can help protect its diverse wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.

3. Job creation: The growth of the solar industry in Minnesota can lead to job creation, with employment opportunities ranging from installation and maintenance to research and development.

4. Increased grid stability: Distributed solar energy systems can increase the stability of the electric grid by reducing the risk of blackouts and brownouts. This benefit is particularly important during times of high demand, such as hot summer days when air conditioning use is high.

Financial Advantages of Solar Energy in Minnesota

Minnesotans can take advantage of several financial benefits associated with solar energy, such as:

1. Decreased energy bills: By generating their own electricity, homeowners and businesses can significantly reduce their energy costs using solar power systems.

2. Net metering: Minnesota's net metering policy enables solar system owners to sell surplus electricity back to the grid, thereby offsetting future energy consumption and reducing overall energy costs.

3. Tax credits and incentives: State and federal incentives like tax credits and rebate programs make solar power more affordable for Minnesotans by lowering the initial investment required for installation.

Solar Energy Potential in Minnesota

Despite its colder climate, Minnesota has a significant solar resource, comparable to many parts of the southern United States. In recent years, the state has seen substantial growth in solar installations, with more than 1,300 MW of solar capacity installed as of 2022, including 839 MW of community solar, the most of any state! This growth is expected to continue as more residents and businesses recognize the benefits of solar power.

Solar Incentives and Rebates in Minnesota

Minnesota offers a variety of incentives and rebates to encourage solar energy adoption, including:

1. Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit: Homeowners can take advantage of a federal tax credit equal to 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system, reducing the initial investment required.

2. Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program: This state-specific program offers financial incentives for solar systems that use components manufactured within the state, supporting local businesses and promoting economic growth.

Understanding Rooftop Solar: Key Factors to Consider

Before deciding to invest in a rooftop solar system, it's essential to consider several key factors:

1. Roof condition and orientation: A suitable roof should be in good condition and have an optimal orientation (south-facing is ideal) to maximize sunlight exposure.

2. Available space: Ensure there is enough space on the roof for solar panels without causing shading or structural issues.

3. Local regulations and permitting: Familiarize yourself with local building codes, zoning regulations, and permitting requirements related to solar installations.

4. Maintenance and warranties: Understand the ongoing maintenance requirements and warranties associated with your solar system to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Sun rising over a community solar farm in Minnesota

What is Community Solar?

Community solar refers to a shared solar energy system where multiple subscribers, often households or businesses, purchase a portion of the electricity generated by the project. This concept allows individuals who cannot or do not want to install solar panels on their property to still reap the benefits of solar energy, while promoting the growth of renewable energy sources.

Community Solar in Minnesota

Minnesota has been a pioneer in community solar initiatives, with legislation passed in 2013 establishing the state's community solar program. Since then, numerous community solar projects have been developed across Minnesota, providing residents with an alternative to traditional rooftop solar installations.

Benefits of Joining a Community Solar Project

Participating in a community solar project offers several advantages:

1. No upfront costs: Community solar subscribers often do not need to invest in solar panel installation, making it a more affordable option for many households.

2. Support for local economies: Community solar projects are frequently built within the communities they serve, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in the area.

3. Savings on your energy bills: Community solar subscribers can receive credits on their utility bill each month based on the solar power produced on the farm. Since the bill credits are generally worth more than they pay for them, subscribers can expect to save on electricity costs over the course of the year.

Rooftop Solar vs Community Solar

Both rooftop and community solar offer their respective benefits, and the choice between the two depends on individual needs and preferences. Rooftop solar allows homeowners to generate their own electricity, potentially saving more on energy bills and providing a sense of energy independence. However, it requires an upfront investment and may not be suitable for all property types or locations. Meanwhile, community solar provides an alternative for those who cannot or do not want to install solar panels on their property. It offers flexibility in participation and typically does not require upfront costs. 

What Are Some Alternatives to Community Solar?

If you’re looking for another easy way you can make a positive impact on the environment through clean energy, look no further than CleanChoice Energy. Our two products, Clean Electricity and Clean Energy Option, offer easy ways for homeowners and renters across the country to support clean energy. Since our founding in 2012, CleanChoice customers have had the collective impact equivalent to growing more than 105 million trees!

With Clean Energy Option, a monthly membership adds 1,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy to the grid, offsetting the monthly electricity use of an average American home—for just $19/month. Each month, we'll secure one Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) on your behalf, certifying 1,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy were added to the power grid. You can sign up in minutes, and you can cancel any time with no cancellation fees.

When you choose CleanChoice Energy as your electricity supplier with Clean Electricity, we'll ensure all the energy you use is replenished on the grid from wind and solar farms in your region. Your utility company stays the same. They will still maintain your lines and provide your bill. No service calls, equipment, or installation are needed—you'll simply see a line on your electric bill that says your “Supplier” is CleanChoice Energy. There are no upfront costs, sign up fees, or cancellation penalties, which makes choosing clean energy an easy and accessible option. Plus, it only takes two minutes to sign up!

Visit our website to explore what renewable energy options are available to you.

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