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Community Solar Gardens

Community Solar Gardens

Current information (2/22/2024): Applicants proposed a total of 39.4 MW in batch 1. These applications are being reviewed.

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During the 2023 Legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature made changes to the Community Solar Garden statute: Chapter 60 - MN Laws sunsetting the “Legacy” program operated by Xcel Energy and establishing a new program to be administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce (Commerce).

Commerce has launched the Low and Moderate-income Accessible Community Solar Garden program (LMI-Accessible CSG Program). The application process and information about what applicants will need to submit are described below. 

The Request for Applications can be found on Commerce's Request for Proposals page.

The Batch Process

Commerce will review community solar applications in batches on a monthly basis. Each application round will be a standalone batch.  The application window for each batch will be open for 21 days beginning on the 1st of each month.

At the close of each application window, Commerce will review project applications for completeness. The completeness review will include verification that all components identified in Minnesota Statutes § 216B.1641, subdivision 5 are complete and verification that a proposed project meets all eligibility requirements as described in Minnesota Statutes §§ 216B.1641, subdivisions 6, 7c, and 10b. 

If the total capacity of complete applications from the first round does not exceed 100 megawatts (MW), projects will be approved to move forward as community solar gardens.

If, at the end of the completeness review, the total capacity of applications exceeds 100 MW, Commerce will then move to a second phase of review. This phase will be a more detailed evaluation of projects per the criteria described in subdivision 7b. This phase will involve a scoring process as described in the attached “Prioritization Scoring Rubric” below.

Projects not initially approved will be held in the queue for the duration of the program year. If an approved project is not able to move forward, the next in line will then be approved to move forward. At the end of the program year, the queue will be cleared. All remaining projects will be required to apply anew in the following program year.

Timeline and Process for Future Rounds

Future application rounds will similarly open on the first of the month and close on the 21st of the month until the program has reached maximum capacity for the year. For each new batch, Commerce will review project applications for completeness. If the total number of MW in new complete applications in a given round does not, when added to the MW of projects already approved in previous rounds, exceed 100 MW, projects will be approved to move forward as community solar gardens.

If in any round, the capacity of complete applications from the batch pushes the total capacity of applications over 100 MW, Commerce will move to the second phase. This phase will consist of a more detailed evaluation of projects in that batch to prioritize which projects move forward.

As an example, in the first three rounds of applications, the total MW capacity of complete applications is 30 MW in February, 30 MW in March, and 30 MW in April. Those 90 MW of projects may move forward without a second phase review. At the beginning of the May round, there would be 10 MW of capacity remaining toward the 100 MW cap. If, during the May round, another 30 MW of complete projects are proposed, Commerce would move this group of projects to the more detailed review to prioritize which projects would move forward to fulfill the remaining available 10 MW. Others would be placed in queue should a previous project pull out of the program.

Depending upon the volume of applications, the completeness review may not yet be finished by the time a new application window opens. To ensure transparency with the program status, Commerce will publish the total capacity of MWs of projects proposed within three (3) business days of an application round closing. This does not mean that all of those proposed projects are complete, but it will help Subscriber Organizations understand the scale of applications proposed.

Commerce also reserves the right to open additional application rounds during the program year, even if all 100 MW have been allocated, in order to place those applications in queue to be awarded capacity if any becomes available. In this scenario, Commerce will provide written notice on its website and application portal of this fact.

Key Program Details

Application Requirements

Applications must be submitted through the online portal. The required elements (see the LMI-Accessible CSG Program Application Checklist) will need to be uploaded as individual attachments or answered via web form, depending on the application item. Subscriber Organizations must complete a separate application for each proposed community solar garden.

Find the current Request for Applications on Commerce's Request for Proposals page.

Attachments

Commerce is providing the following templates and forms that Subscriber Organizations need to complete and submit as part of their applications:


Additional Program Information

 

Commerce is providing a list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions, asked by the public regarding the LMI-Accessible CSG Program to ensure transparency and that everyone has access to the same information. Please submit any additional questions to CommunitySolar@state.mn.us

Commerce held an online information session on January 22, 2024, to review the application process and evaluation criteria for the program, as well as answer questions from prospective applicants. A recording of the meeting and the slides are available here.

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