Minnesota is leaping from “laggard to leader” on solar energy due in large part to a suite of policy tools developed by Fresh Energy. Now Fresh Energy is launching a ‘Solar for All’ program to ensure all Minnesotans have access to homegrown clean energy options.
As of 2014, Minnesota had an estimated 24 megawatts of solar installed. Today there are now 850 megawatts of solar energy capacity around the state waiting for utilities to move forward on grid connections. This new solar will come in through community solar (a program allowing all utility customers to purchase a “share” of a solar development and receive credit on their energy bill), large utility solar projects, and installation of solar arrays on residential and commercial buildings. In addition to solar-supportive policies that were shaped and driven by Fresh Energy, increasing productivity, and falling prices for panels and installation are unleashing pent up consumer demand for solar energy in Minnesota.
At this point in Minnesota’s solar market development, residential and low income markets are underserved, and while many solar projects are in the planning stages, no community solar projects have made it through Xcel Energy’s long interconnection process. Fresh Energy is working to change that and bring more solar to Minnesotans of all income levels.
Three key tools to increase access to clean, affordable solar
At this moment we are at a critical juncture. For the next wave of solar development, we must make solar more accessible to all Minnesotans through focusing on three key objectives:
1) Increasing Solar Financing Options
Fresh Energy is partnering with state and national financing experts, customer groups, and policy makers to identify national best practices and policies that move solar to one that works for all Minnesotans.
2) Increasing Access to Community Solar in Low-Income Communities
With partners, and through our role in the National Community Solar Garden Partnership, Fresh Energy is identifying new financing solutions and potential adjustments to developer contracts that put solar within reach for more people. Fresh Energy is also partnering with workforce development experts and local governments to further increase the community benefits of solar, bringing new jobs and employment opportunities as well as a clean source of energy at a stable price.
3) Getting the Grid Rules Right
Connecting solar energy projects to the electrical grid is a sticking point. Simply put, there are challenges to incorporating new clean energy into a grid that was designed around large power plants and not cost effective distributed generation sources like solar. With lessons learned from community solar policies, national best practices, and Fresh Energy’s participation in the Public Utilities Commission upcoming Grid Modernization Docket, we are poised to streamline the process solar and other distributed resources use to connect to the grid.
As we rapidly add more solar to our energy systems, Fresh Energy will focus on “Solar for All” and work to ensure all Minnesotans have the opportunity to take advantage of solar options that work for them.
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