NextEra Energy Resources adds to Minnesota community solar boom

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Readers of pv magazine might be excused if they feel an odd sense of deja vu as they read another story about Minnesota’s community solar boom – but another developer is adding more capacity to the 170 MW that existed in November.

What can we say? Minnesota is showing the rest of the country how community solar is done.

The latest developer to further the gold rush is NextEra Energy Resources, which has brought its community solar portfolio to 66 MW – and the company says it is not done yet.

“Community solar gardens represent a creative and efficient model for an electric company to meet its customers’ and its own sustainability goals,” said Matt Handel, vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources. “For NextEra Energy Resources, these projects represent an initial portion of the solar gardens we plan to bring online this year.”

In a twist worth of Alfred Hitchcock, the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, is partnering with NextEra on its community solar projects. The irony is that advocates blame Xcel for the substantial delays in initially getting the state’s community solar program off the ground.

These advocates say Xcel fought community solar tooth and nail and only embraced it when it became obvious the program was inevitable, in part because its own customers were clamoring for more renewable energy options. Now the utility is one of the program’s most active supporters.

Xcel’s community solar program allows its customers to purchase subscriptions to the gardens, under which they pay NextEra for their fixed share of the farm’s production in addition to their regular Xcel utility bill.

As of November, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Minnesota’s community solar program had more than 100 projects totaling 170 MW of capacity.

“Minnesota’s program is the best in the country,” Farrell wrote in a blog piece touting the program in November . “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).”

 

John Farrell outlines Minnesota’s community solar program growth.

Part of Minnesota’s success is the result of its decision not to cap the amount of community solar that can be installed in any one year.