Minnesota Power to solicit 300 MW of utility-scale solar generation

While large solar projects have typically been concentrated in California and the U.S. Southwest, in recent years the U.S. utility-scale solar market has been diversifying. But even as other regions such as the South build more solar, the transition has been slow to come to the Midwest.

Minnesota may become an exception. While the state has been only a modest solar market to date, with an estimated 25 MW deployed in 2015, the state passed legislation in 2013 which is driving an increase in solar deployment.

Accompanying a new solicitation for 300 MW of wind, yesterday Minnesota Power announced that it will issue another request for proposals (RFP) for 300 MW of solar PV some time in “the next several weeks”.

Such projects must qualify under Minnesota’s Solar Energy Standard, which requires that most investor-owned utilities including Minnesota Power procure 1.5% of their power from solar by 2020. Minnesota Power says also that it will seek to maximize the benefits of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for its customers.

These RFPs come under Minnesota Power’s EnergyForward strategy, through which it says it will diversify its power supply. The utility also notes that in approving its Integrated Resource Plan in June, Minnesota regulators requested that the company consider more wind, solar and demand-side management.

Minnesota Power serves most of northeastern Minnesota, including the city of Duluth.