Solar Power Heats Up in Minnesota

May 29, 2013 | 8:46 am
Laura Wisland
Former Contributor

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog describing how states across the country are scaling up investments in solar power. I’m happy to report that the good solar news just keeps on coming!

Minnesota takes solar to a new level

Photo courtesy of Sundial Solar

Photo courtesy of Sundial Solar

Last Friday, Minnesota took a bold step forward when Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law that requires investor-owned utilities to source 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar resources by 2020, and establishes a goal to reach 10 percent solar by 2030. This solar energy standard amounts to a 30-fold increase in solar power for Minnesota by the end of the decade!

The state already has a renewable energy standard (RES) that requires utilities to source 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, and biomass, by 2025. This law places more emphasis on investing in distributed solar, or small-scale solar installations located close to where energy is consumed, as the way to comply with the current RES. Specifically, the law requires that at least 10 percent of the new solar energy standard be met by distributed solar resources that generate 20 kilowatts or less — essentially the type of solar you see on rooftops. If you want to dig into all the details of the new law, click here.

Renewables help keep state economies competitive

The effort to pass the solar energy standard was led by the Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs campaign, a coalition of more than 60 energy, labor, environment, youth, and business groups that are working together to enact policies that will create clean energy jobs in the state. UCS is a member.

Initially, the solar energy standard would have raised Minnesota’s RES to 40 percent by 2030 with a 4 percent solar carve-out. The coalition, which praised the final bill as a compromise containing a more modest solar carve-out without an RES increase, also urged the governor to raise the RES in the near future, to ensure that Minnesota’s renewable energy industry remains competitive and a job creator for the state. Currently, more than 119,000 people are employed by the solar industry across the country. For more information about how renewable energy policies are boosting state economies, check out UCS’s latest report, How Renewable Electricity Standards Deliver Economic Benefits.

Minnesota is just the latest state to capitalize on clean, free sunshine to fuel its economy and environment. Stay tuned for a UCS blog on how states across the country measure up when it comes to solar installations. The Solar Electric Power Association has released an executive summary of the top-ten utility solar rankings, and we expect the full report to be released any day now.