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Minnesota Receives Grant to Reduce Cost of Solar Installations for Small Businesses, Homeowners

December 13, 2011

For Immediate Release

ST. PAUL, MN – Minnesota got some bright news this month when the U.S. Department of Energy announced the recipients of its Sunshot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) was awarded more than $263,000 to help make solar installation faster and less expensive for small businesses and homeowners. Working with the City of St. Paul, the City of Minneapolis, Fresh Energy, and other nonprofit and business stakeholders in Minnesota, the state Commerce Department is one of 22 organizations nationwide selected to lead the way in solar power deployment.

“This effort will help make solar more financially feasible for small businesses and individuals statewide,” said Commissioner Rothman. “Taking the steps to streamline and standardize the solar energy permitting process is an important milestone in making solar energy cost-competitive, providing the platform we need to advance Minnesota’s clean energy economy.”

“We look forward to taking the lead through the SunShot Initiative and continuing our efforts to make Minnesota a national leader in solar power,” Rothman said.

The SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge is one tool used by DOE to achieve its goal of making solar energy cost competitive without subsidies by 2020.  Twenty-two recipients around the nation received a share of the $12 million dollars to make solar more accessible and affordable.  Currently, permitting, installation, design and maintenance make up 40 percent of the cost of rooftop solar systems.

To address these cost-prohibitive steps to solar, the Department of Commerce will focus its efforts on: 1) streamlining and standardizing permitting and interconnection; 2) increasing access to rooftop solar financing; and 3) adopting favorable land use planning, solar zoning standards. 

Although the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis have implemented solar programs, the state lacks uniformity across jurisdictions in the permitting, zoning, metering, and connection process that the SunShot Initiative will seek to standardize as well. Once the policies and procedures are in place, the Department of Commerce will move forward, implementing Phase II to share best practices in the three identified areas and offer technical assistance.

Consumers interested in solar energy and rooftop solar projects are encouraged to visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce website for information regarding FAQs, benefits, challenges, and renewable energy installers. The website also includes solar building design guidelines and construction specifications to assist in planning.