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Report assesses the costs, benefits of solar thermal in Minnesota

“The Value of Solar Heating and Cooling in Minnesota” is a recent report that analyzes the potential costs and benefits of expanding the installation of solar thermal projects in residential and commercial buildings in Minnesota. The report, commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and compiled by Meister Consultants Group, Inc., assesses technical and policy issues that contribute to the understanding of how solar heating and cooling, as one of the few options for renewable heat, can potentially advance Minnesota state energy policy goals of increasing energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gases.

Several technology and end-use applications are considered within the report, which includes an assessment of levelized cost of energy for both the commercial and residential sectors. These include solar water heating for domestic hot water and solar air heat and transpired air preheating for space heating. The report highlights the technical potential of solar thermal statewide to meet residential and commercial heating loads and the technology’s alignment with broader state policy goals. It includes recommendations to break down market barriers.
The report identifies the highest value solar thermal market sectors and end uses in Minnesota that could most readily scale up. These include: 
  • Commercial customers heating with high cost fuel sources such as electricity, propane, or fuel oil; 
  • Agricultural applications where load characteristics coincide with solar resources; and
  • Low-income housing where the effects of natural gas price volatility are particularly risky.