Perhaps no aspect of the solar industry has attracted as much excitement as community solar. It promises something to everyone: renters and homeowners with unsuitable roofs can participate, utilities can offer their customers solar at a lower cost (while still staying in the game of providing power), and those concerned about low-income customers have used it as a vehicle to serve them.
But despite all the buzz actual deployment of community solar has been remarkably slow, including in Minnesota. The state passed landmark enabling legislation in 2013, however for the next three years very little community solar was put online, with advocates citing delays in utility Xcel’s interconnection process.
However, the state’s community solar market appears to have turned a corner, with Xcel announcing yesterday that it has reached more than 139 MW-AC of operational community solar in 40 plants, as the largest community solar program in the nation. The utility issued a joint PR with developers NRG Energy and Cypress Creek, both of which helped Xcel to reach this milestone.
NRG reports that it has built 37 MW-AC of community solar projects for Xcel in Minnesota to date.
The 40 community solar projects that Xcel has online is only the beginning. Of the nearly 180 MW of solar projects totaling more than 475 MW that Xcel estimates are in the design or construction phase, the utility estimates that 150-200 MW could be online by the end of 2017.
This in turn is part of a larger plan for Xcel to add 1.4 GW of solar in the state by 2030, which will help it meet the state’s mandate to obtain a 31.5% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
This timeframe is actually not ambitious given the rapid progress of solar in the state. According to data by GTM Research and SEIA, Minnesota was the fifth-larges solar market in the United States in the second quarter of 2017, and the state’s Commerce Department predicted in May that around 600 MW will have been installed over the course of 2017.
Correction: This article was corrected at 11:10 AM EST on October 5, to update a figure on the volume of community solar that Xcel has built to date in the state.