Minnesota community solar capacity soars to 170 MW

Minnesota’s reputation as a hospitable state, where neighbors help neighbors, are proving it with its community solar program.

Long touted as an example of how other community solar programs could work around the country, its success supports such praise. The program currently has more than 100 projects with a capacity of 170 MW, according to John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“Minnesota’s program is the best in the country,” Farrell wrote in a blog piece touting the program. “There 10 times more community solar projects in the queue — 400 MW — in Minnesota than have been built in the history of community solar in the United States (outside Minnesota).”

The key, says Farrell? Minnesota’s program does not cap the development of community solar projects. Unlike other states, whose baby steps toward community solar programs often include capping either the number of allowed projects or the total capacity of projects, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has left its community solar program to bloom with the support of utility Xcel and governmental programs designed to encourage community solar’s development.

Farrell notes, for example, that Colorado’s successful community solar program (a pioneering program that preceded Minnesota’s aggressive pursuit) caps the capacity at 6.5  MW per utility per year.

 

John Farrell outlines Minnesota’s community solar program growth.

Analysts around the country have identified the Midwest as a potential growth market for solar, and the numbers suggest Minnesota is leading the way.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research’s 2016 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, Minnesota leads Indiana (the No. 2 Midwestern state in installed solar capacity) by 160 MW, with 373 MW.

As well as Minnesota is doing, it still has a long way to go. For contrast, California has already installed 19 GW alone.