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Minnesota Solar Challenge

Solar energy production is a small but growing resource in Minnesota, where we now have more than 14 Megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity. The Minnesota Solar Challenge project is a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Fresh Energy, and Xcel Energy to provide support for local communities pursuing increased access to financing, standardized permitting processes, and updated planning and zoning codes and other solar-related policies.

Information on this project is divided out into the following topic areas:

  • Project Assistance
  • Project Resources
  • Background & Goals

Project Assistance

Do you need assistance with interconnection, permitting, zoning, or billing questions related to solar electric installations?

We have technical assistance available for the following audiences:

  • Building Officials
  • Electric Utilities
  • Solar Installers
  • Local Government

The Minnesota Solar Challenge project provides assistance with permitting, zoning, and interconnection of solar electric systems.  Resources include established best practices for streamlined solar permitting guidelines and checklists, solar planning and zoning ordinances that accommodate solar electric installations and assistance with interconnection issues.  Our main goal is to remove barriers to solar electric installations in Minnesota communities that wish to facilitate solar deployment. 

To request technical assistance on solar electric installations, contact the Solar Helpline at:

651.539.1848 Solar Help Line
800.657.3710 Energy Information

Project Resources

Market Transformation Pathways for Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar PV in Minnesota   (.pdf)
The comprehensive report presents the market and policy findings of the Minnesota Solar Challenge program.

Planning, Zoning & Permitting for Solar Energy Webinar  (12/05/2012)
Minnesota Solar Challenge Local Best Practices for Solar: Planning, Zoning, and Permitting webinar.

Standardized Load Tables Characterizing Residential Solar Thermal and Solar Electric Installations For Residential Structures in Minnesota
This report includes standard load tables providing guidance for planned solar electric and solar thermal systems and the load capacity of existing single and multi-family dwelling roof structures. The tables allow existing structures that fall within the published guidelines to be accepted as meeting the required standards of safety without further structural analysis.

Rooftop Solar Challenge 

Teams from across the country are taking the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Rooftop Solar Challenge to make installing rooftop photovoltaics (PV) easier, faster, and cheaper for homeowners and businesses. 

Best Practices for Permitting

Establishing a transparent, consistent, and expedient permitting process can help reduce non-hardware costs of a rooftop PV system. The Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) Expedited Permit Process provides tools to differentiate systems that fast track permitting due to similarity with the majority of small-scale PV systems.

The City of Minneapolis employed the Solar ABCs guidance to successfully develop their own streamlined permitting process

Solar Guide for Local Governments 

The U. S Department of Energy has provided a community-focused guide specifically for local governments that seek to simplify solar installation in their communities.  The guide introduces a range of policy and program options that can help a community build a sustainable solar infrastructure. 

Building Official Solar Photovoltaic

Model Ordinance and Permit Process Examples

Background & Goals

The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes that while the equipment costs of solar have decreased, the non-hardware costs of permitting, interconnection, installation, and design remain relatively high. The Minnesota Solar Challenge project is a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Fresh Energy and Xcel Energy to address these and other impediments to effective installation of rooftop photovoltaics. The project brings together government officials, regulatory entities, private industry, local utilities, and other stakeholders to reduce barriers to solar installation and to serve as a model for other communities across the country. Minnesota is one of 22 awardees to receive funding nationwide.

The Minnesota Solar Challenge project provides support for local communities pursuing increased access to financing, standardized permit processes, and updated planning and zoning codes and other solar related policies. These measures will help reduce non-hardware costs, which account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of solar energy systems. 

The overall goal is to identify and provide best practices for state and local procedures that expedite the integration of photovoltaic (PV) systems for both residential and small commercial rooftop applications.  The expected results are as follows:

  • lower balance-of-system costs for residential and small commercial rooftop PV systems
  • reduced time needed for approvals and inspections of grid-connected rooftop PV
  • reduced transaction costs associated with installing PV
  • new or simplified financing options for PV homeowners, businesses, and installers

The Rooftop Solar Challenge is part of the U.S. DOE SunShot Initiative, which is a collaborative national effort to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Access more information about the SunShot Initiative. View information on individual Rooftop Solar Challenge awards.