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Here comes the sun: Minnesota poised to be among top 10 solar states in 2016

4/21/2016 11:03:32 AM

For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL — As Minnesotans celebrate Earth Day on Friday, April 22, one of the high points on the state’s environmental landscape this year is the dramatic growth expected in solar energy, with Minnesota poised to climb into the top 10 states for annual solar installations from its 25th rank in 2015.

“Solar is a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture that promises to get even bigger and brighter in the coming years,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Solar delivers positive results for both our environment and our economy, reducing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels imported from outside the state. This clean energy opportunity is now rising fast from the horizon, and the classic Beatles song says it best: Here comes the sun.”

Based on utility filings and industry projections, the Minnesota Commerce Department expects the state’s solar capacity to increase by more than 500 megawatts (MW) in 2016. This will be a 15-fold increase in the state’s total installed solar energy capacity of 35 MW at the end of 2015.

(One megawatt equals 1 million watts, enough to power about 125 houses in Minnesota.)

If the 500 MW had been added in 2015, it would have made Minnesota the nation’s third largest state for annual solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review.

Rothman said Minnesota’s solar progress is being driven by both innovative public policies and market forces, with solar energy becoming more cost competitive every year.

In 2013, Minnesota passed the Solar Energy Standard that requires investor-owned utilities to obtain 1.5 percent of their electric power from solar by 2020, with a goal of 10 percent by 2030. Minnesota’s solar market also benefits from state policies like the new community solar garden program and the Made in Minnesota Solar Energy Incentive Program, as well as a five-year extension of the federal solar tax credit recently passed by Congress.

Rothman said Minnesota’s solar growth is coming from a combination of utility-scale projects, community solar and rooftop panels.

Several large-scale solar projects are currently under construction or development, including North Star Solar near North Branch (100 MW) and Aurora Solar at multiple locations (100 MW). Minnesota Power recently received state approval for a 10 MW solar project at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.

Minnesota produced 21 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources in 2015, up from just 6 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, electricity from coal dropped to 44 percent in 2015 from 62 percent a decade earlier. Most of the state’s renewable energy currently comes from wind.

Commerce is here to help. 

For more information on solar energy and how to “go solar,” contact the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Solar Help Line by email at solar.help@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1886 or 800-657-3710 (Greater Minnesota).

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

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