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Solar Electric Systems Achieve Record numbers in Minnesota

November 04, 2010

Solar Electric Systems Achieve Record numbers in Minnesota

For Immediate Release: Thursday, November 4, 2010

Solar Electric Systems Achieve Record numbers in Minnesota
State, utility rebates spur new solar installations

(ST. PAUL, MN) Harnessing solar energy to power a home or business in Minnesota may seem like a challenge, but a growing number of residents and companies are finding that Minnesota is a much sunnier state than its numerous gray, winter days would suggest.

A record number of solar electric systems have been installed in Minnesota in 2010, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security.  As of November 4, a total of 178 installations had been completed so far this year -- already more than double the 76 new installations reported in 2009.

Virtually every region in the United States has sufficient solar energy to produce electricity, and Minnesota is no exception. While solar electric, or solar PV (photovoltaic), systems work best on clear summer days, they also produce energy during the dead of winter when temperatures reach -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  In fact, average annual solar resources in Minneapolis are comparable to solar resources in Jacksonville, Fla., and Houston, Texas.

"Minnesota may not be a solar power like California," says Brian Ross, a solar energy proponent who seven years ago installed solar electric and solar hot water systems at his North Minneapolis residence, "but we're making significant progress."

Minnesota currently has 503 solar electric installations with 2.75 megawatts of solar electric capacity. The 178 new installations this year represent a 55 percent increase in the total number of installations from the beginning of the year (325).

Driving the recent spike in installations is a 20 to 25 percent decrease over the past year alone in the price of installing solar.  This means the cost of an average residential solar electric system in Minnesota is about $7.50 per watt, down from about $10 per watt.  Rebates from utilities and sizeable incentives, such as the State Solar Electric Rebate program administered by OES, have further lowered the cost of entry.

So far this year, OES has approved 260 solar electric rebates for residences and small businesses, with a total capacity of 1.5 megawatts.  A total of $2.5 million in rebates were made available by OES early this year, and by May those funds were fully committed.

The 2010 state rebate program includes up to $500,000 for solar hot water and solar air heat systems; the majority of those funds are still available.

The rebates have given the solar industry a boost, according to Philip Lipetzky, a solar installer for Green Energy Products, LLC in Springfield, Minn. "For people on the fence — and there are a lot of them — receiving a rebate is often the deciding factor," Lipetzky said.

Minnesota is solar friendly in other ways, too.  The value of solar electric systems is excluded from real property taxation, and solar systems in general are exempt from state sales tax.  Some utilities offer grant, rebate or loan programs to fund solar systems.  In many cases, a federal Renewable Energy Tax Credit of 30 percent can be applied to the cost of residential or business solar systems installed between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2016.

Consumers and businesses interested in solar or other renewable energy systems should visit the OES website www.energy.mn.gov (click on "Renewables" and then "Solar") and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society website (www.mnrenewables.org ).  For a listing of all available government and utility incentives for solar, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org .