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Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program set to launch


The 10-year, $15-million-a-year Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is set to launch in 2014. Applications for the Solar Electric Production Incentives and the Solar Thermal Rebates will be available at the Commerce website.

Made in Minnesota was one of several initiatives enacted by the 2013 Legislature to increase deployment of solar energy throughout the state. It will help achieve the state’s new solar electricity standard, which calls for 1.5 percent of electric sales from investor-owned utilities to come from solar electricity by 2020. The program is intended to boost the state’s market for solar electric and solar thermal systems and make solar more affordable for Minnesota residents and businesses.

Solar PV Production Incentives

The incentives for solar electric systems from the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program will be available to customers of investor-owned utilities (Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power) who install solar electric, or solar photovoltaic (PV), systems using solar modules certified as manufactured in Minnesota. Modules from two Minnesota companies—tenKsolar and Silicon Energy—have been certified for the program to date. Solar PV systems must be less than 40 kilowatts (kW) to qualify for incentives. Applications must be received between Jan. 1-Feb. 28 each year through 2023 and will be selected by lottery.

Several factors were used to determine the incentive amounts, including six criteria listed in the Made in Minnesota Solar Energy Production Incentive legislation (Minnesota Statute 216.414). Incentives for PV systems will be performance-based—established by a system’s energy production—and will be paid over 10 years rather than the capacity-based incentives of past programs.

Production incentive amounts for commercial, nonprofit/government, and residential solar electric systems are posted on the Made in Minnesota webpage.

Incentives for 2014 will be paid based on the kilowatt hours (kWh) generated during the 2014 calendar year. The solar energy generated in 2014 would then be reported by the customer’s utility company by March 1, 2015 and incentive payments to the consumer or business would be made by July 1, 2015 and each year thereafter. The amount of energy produced will vary each year and therefore the incentive payment amount will vary each year.

Solar Thermal Rebates

The incentive program includes up to $250,000 per year in rebates for the installation of “Made in Minnesota” solar thermal systems in the state. The solar thermal system may be installed in residential or commercial facilities for, among other uses, hot water or space heating purposes. A solar thermal system is “Made in Minnesota” if components of the system are manufactured in Minnesota and the solar thermal system is certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation.

Currently, systems certified for the solar thermal rebate program are available from three Minnesota companies: Solar Skies, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), and Energy Conservation Products and Services. All of the solar thermal collectors currently manufactured by the three companies meet the Made in Minnesota certification criteria. The rebate program is attracting interest among manufacturers nationwide. Certification applications are available to manufacturers.

Who can apply for the solar thermal rebate? Rebates are available to customers of the following investor-owned utilities: Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power. Applications will be accepted annually between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 each year through 2023 and will be selected by lottery. 

Solar thermal rebate amounts

Up to $250,000 per year in rebates will be available from 2014 to 2023. The solar thermal system rebates are as follows:

  • Single family residential dwellings. Maximum rebate is the lesser of 25 percent of the installed cost of a complete system or $2,500.
  • Multiple family residential dwellings. Maximum rebate is the lesser of 25 percent of the installed cost of a complete system or $5,000.
  • Commercial installations. Maximum rebate is the lesser of 25 percent of the installation cost of the complete system or $25,000.

The systems must be installed by a factory authorized installer. Commerce will allocate about 50 percent of the rebates in each year to solar thermal hot water and 50 percent to solar thermal air projects if sufficient applications are made for each category.

The Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is administered by the Department of Commerce with an annual budget of $15 million for 10 years. About 50 percent of the incentives and rebates will go to residential systems and about 50 percent to commercial, nonprofit, and government systems. The $15 million-a-year program is funded through two sources: 5 percent of each public electric utility’s total annual Conservation Improvement Program budget and the Xcel Renewable Development Fund (RDF), with the RDF providing approximately $12 million in the first year.

More information on the Made in Minnesota program is available on the on the Made in Minnesota webpage. Applications for the solar electric incentives and solar thermal rebates will be posted on that webpage. Questions can be directed to the Department of Commerce Energy Information Line: 651-539-1886 or toll free at 1-800-657-3710.