1/24/2018 1:12:08 PM
For Immediate Release
SAINT PAUL – Minnesota enjoyed sustained, dramatic growth in electricity generated by solar energy during 2017, with an increase in capacity of nearly three times over the previous year. More capacity was added in the first half of 2017 alone than the total capacity added in the previous decade.
According to data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, 467 megawatts (MW) of capacity were added in 2017, compared to 209 MW during all of 2016. Overall, Minnesota now has 714 MW of installed solar capacity.
“The addition of 467 megawatts of capacity is enough electricity to power 53,000 more homes.” said Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman, whose agency includes the State Energy Office.
Residential rooftop, utility-scale solar and, in particular, community solar installations contributed to the state’s solar growth in 2017. Of note, two large utility-scale solar projects completed in 2017 were Marshall (62 MW) in Lyon County and Aurora (100 MW) at multiple locations.
Minnesota appears poised for continued solar growth in 2018 and beyond, with hopes that the state may achieve a full gigawatt (1,000 MW) of solar by 2019.
Much of the new generation in 2017 came from the completion of many community solar projects, ranging from one MW to five MW each.
As of December 31, 2017, a total of 94 community solar sites available from 30 utilities had a capacity of nearly 287 MW. Xcel Energy had 66 community solar sites with 282 MW in capacity. Other utilities reported 4.6 MW at 28 sites.
In addition, Xcel Energy has reported more than 400 MW of community solar currently in design or under construction.
Community solar (also called community shared solar or community solar gardens) offers Minnesotans the opportunity to participate in solar energy systems through subscriptions. Subscribers may be residential, commercial or government/nonprofit. They get a credit on their utility bills reflecting their share of the electricity generated by the project.
Outside of the Twin Cities, most community solar projects in Minnesota are owned and operated by electric cooperative utilities, which offer subscriptions to their customers. However, the largest community solar program (Solar*Rewards Community) is administered by Xcel Energy and regulated by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Xcel purchases the electricity from independent entities, which actually own the solar projects and sell the subscriptions to customers.
Even with significant growth, solar energy currently provides only about one percent of the state’s total electricity generation. However, as the cost of installing solar continued to decline and market demand continued to rise, solar represented the fastest growing contributor to Minnesota’s renewable energy portfolio in 2017.
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