Minnesota’s governor Mark Dayton has hit a home run for the state’s solar power industry. A new bill introduced called the “Solar Energy Jobs Act” is set to increase Minnesota’s solar capacity from 13 MW to more than 450 MW.
With strong leadership, governor Dayton has made it clear that he supports a clean energy future for Minnesota. During his State of the State address that he gave earlier this year, he said: “Are we doing all we can to utilise other renewables, such as solar, and also to make Minnesota the best place to locate these new industries and their jobs?”
He went on to say to his legislature:
I challenge this legislature to work again with our state’s visionary clean energy advocates, large energy providers, large energy users, other stakeholders, and my administration to use your past achievements as springboards for Minnesota’s next big leap toward a sustainable energy future.
Some of the key highlights of the bill from environmentminnesota.org include:
- Establishes a goal of reaching 10 percent solar by 2030.
- Requires 10 percent of the solar standard be met by small solar projects (less than 20 kw), in order to serve residential and small business customers
- Raises the customer net-metering cap to 1 MW for investor-owned utilities; and provides new protections for customers
- Requires Xcel energy to establish a Community-Shared Solar program allowing customers to pool their resources and invest in a solar project together and have a portion of the solar project’s power credited to their bill. It authorizes other utilities to develop similar programs
- Establishes a Value of Solar Tariff, which would establish a price for solar that assesses the overall value of solar, making solar projects easier to finance. Minnesota is among the first states in the country to adopt a statewide rate paying solar its worth
- Improves the PACE financing program to help businesses invest in energy improvements including on-site renewable energy
- Establishes new solar incentives to expand access to rooftop solar for residents
- Commissions a one year study of the transmission and grid options for getting 40 percent of our state’s electricity from renewable energy in 2030
- Increases the utility energy saving’s goal to “at least” 1.5 percent of energy sales annually and requires utilities to consider all cost-effective energy efficiency over other energy options
The executive director of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, John Kearney, thinks that over half of the installations would be close to 2 MW and some developers would be looking at putting together 10MW–15MW systems.
The bill will increase the size of Minnesota’s solar industry by 40-fold, he said. What we’ve seen around the country as states set these standards is that investor interest shows up — we expect to follow the same pattern.
On the downside of the bill, co-op and municipal utilities were exempted from participating, which represents 50% of electricity supply in the state. But they could be included in the future, once the bill takes hold and the legislature sees its potential.
This new bill will put Minnesota with 16 other states that have enacted solar energy standards.