A report released by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Vote Solar and the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association finds that community solar is bringing big benefits to Minnesota. Minnesota is the national leader in community solar, with 208 projects around the state producing enough power for 100,000 typical homes.  Minnesota is currently home to more than a third of all community solar projects in the US.

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Community solar allows residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations to invest in solar power even if their own home or building is not suited to hosting solar panels, or if they are renters.  Customers can subscribe to the output of a solar garden located somewhere else, and get the power counted toward their monthly electricity consumption through a credit on their utility bill. 

The Minnesota’s Solar Gardens report found…

  • More than 14,000 Minnesota customers have signed up for community solar, including over 12,000 households and 2,000 business, non-profit, and public-sector customers.
  • Community solar employed over 4,000 workers in Minnesota in 2018, including many family-wage construction jobs. “Solar installer” was the fastest growing job category in the country.
  • Community solar projects currently pay about $5 million a year to Minnesota family farmers for leases and royalty payments. Counting all projects operating or under construction, about 354 landowners will receive a total of $182 million in leases and royalties over the next 25 years.
  • Community solar projects will contribute over $3 million this year in taxes to counties and towns through property tax revenues and the state’s solar production tax credit.
  • Community solar systems cut global warming emissions by almost a million tons per year, plus over 400 tons of sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions that harm public health and the environment.

The Minnesota legislature is currently considering different proposals that could weaken or strengthen Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden policy.  HF 2208, recently approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives, would expand the role of community solar in Greater Minnesota and improve the diversity of Minnesotans with access to the program.

Here’s what people are saying about community solar in Minnesota… 

"Minnesotans are looking for options to manage electric costs while making the electric system cleaner and more resilient. Community solar gives them that option, while also creating local economic development and jobs. It's a win-win-win for consumers, the economy and the environment." – said State Rep. Jamie Long

“Minnesota’s progress toward a completely clean power system is part of a national trend, with Washington, New Mexico, and Nevada recently joining Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts in setting binding targets,” said Becky Stanfield of Vote Solar.  “Community solar ensures that the benefits of the clean energy transition are shared broadly.”

“The Community Solar Garden policy is the best in the nation, making it easy to develop and subscribe to solar power,” said John Farrell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“Solar can bring new benefits to disadvantaged communities, like jobs and clean air,” said Pouya Najmaie of Cooperative Energy Futures.

The report, Minnesota’s Solar Gardens: The Status and Benefits of Community Solar, was written for Vote Solar, MinnSEIA, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance by Bentham Paulos, an energy policy consultant based in California.  More at paulosanalysis.com.

More materials from the report, including video clips and an interactive data dashboard that can be embedded in websites, are available at votesolar.org/MNcommunitysolar.

Vote Solar is a national organization working since 2002 to lower solar costs and expand solar access.  Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy.  More at votesolar.org.

The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) is the trade association representing 128 businesses and allies in the Minnesota solar industry. MnSEIA’s mission is to grow solar energy industries as part of Minnesota's clean energy transition by delivering strong public policy, education, job creation and sustainable industry development.  More at mnseia.org.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has worked since 1974 to challenge concentrated economic and political power and instead champions an approach in which ownership is broadly distributed, institutions are humanly scaled, and decision-making is accountable to communities. More at ilsr.org.

 

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