Minnesota community solar receives boost from U.S. Solar funding

The Midwest may be late to the solar party, but not all its states are lagging. Take Minnesota, for example.

Experts almost unanimously agree the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the leader in the region for solar, in part thanks to an aggressive renewable energy standard (RES) and a public-service commission willing to protect consumer reimbursement rates. One of the most important factors in its growth, however, has been its community solar program.

Minnesota is booming because of community solar, the solar energy standard and a strong commission holding the line on fair compensation for solar producers,” said John Farrell, director of democratic energy for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), based in Minnesota. “When you combine those kinds of factors, we can see that there’s a huge opportunity for low-cost solar to provide power where the grid can use it.

The state’s community solar program received a boost yesterday when U.S. Solar, a community solar developer, announced it had received an influx of funding from the Alliance Fund II, an affiliate of North Sky Capital. The company says the money will support its more than 100 MW solar portfolio and will focus on Minnesota initially. The amount of money provided was not disclosed.

“U.S. Solar’s strategy of developing grid interconnected community solar projects aligns with our focus of investing in small-scale, high quality clean energy infrastructure,” said Ian Marcus, principal at New Energy Capital Partners, which is advising North Sky. “The company’s strength in the Minnesota market presents an attractive opportunity for NEC, and we’re pleased to add them as a development partner.”

For North Sky, the partnership allows it to invest in growing the solar industry in the state where it is located. “While we are geographically indifferent with respect to our investments, it is particularly exciting to partner with a leading developer to build community solar projects in our home state of Minnesota,” said Mike Pohlen, Managing Director at North Sky.

“We are tremendously excited,” said Marty Mobley, U.S. Solar’s CEO. “This facility will help us move forward in key markets with additional conviction and agility, while also allowing for significant scaling potential.”

Community solar in Minnesota has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to a utility’s enthusiastic backing of the concept. In February, Xcel Energy brought 32 MW of solar gardens online and announced plans to bring 96 MW of community solar to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

“We’re proud to work with dedicated partners as we bring more solar energy options to our customers,” Christopher Clark, president, Xcel Energy Minnesota, said at the time. “Xcel Energy is on a path to deliver a third of our energy from renewables by 2030, and solar plays a role in achieving this ambitious goal.”