Minnesota’s Solar Boom and… Bob Dylan?

July 6, 2017
Credit: J. Rogers
Sam Gomberg
Senior Analyst

Those of us that track such things remember a time not long ago when the idea of a solar energy boom in Minnesota might have gotten you a funny look. But in a nod to Bob Dylan and his home state of Minnesota, I can only say: the times they are a-changin.

When Enel Green Power announced on June 27th that it had officially brought online a 150-megawatt (MW) solar project in Minnesota, it marked another big step forward in the state’s growth as a Midwest leader in the clean energy transition. The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 17,000 homes and avoid more than 150,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. Minnesota has embraced solar’s potential, as both a driver of economic growth and a key part of the state’s strategy for addressing climate change.

But it also seemed to me a symbol of the relentless march of progress even as the Trump administration and fossil fuel special interests cling to the status quo and ignore the reality of climate change. And I couldn’t help contemplating Dylan’s ode to a changing world and warning to those that stand in the way:

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Dylan’s song spoke for those fighting for equality in the 1960s, but maintains its relevance today as we continue to push forward for equal rights under the law and a just transition to a cleaner, safer, and more equitable energy future.

Solar PV is helping with this transition. In Minnesota, the rise of community solar is providing access to clean energy for low-income communities. And the increasing affordability of solar in the US and abroad means our transition away from fossil fuels can benefit everyone. “Solar for all” isn’t a catchphrase: it’s a future that we can create one step at a time in collaboration with our partners, and despite the naysayers that cling to the status quo.

And that list of naysayers continues to shrink. More than 30 studies have concluded that solar provides economic value to all consumers by improving reliability and reducing costs for ratepayers. Businesses are committing to solar as part of their efforts to stabilize and reduce energy costs while meeting sustainability goals. And utilities are increasingly recognizing the business case for investing in solar as an affordable and low risk option for meeting future electricity needs.

So yes, it’s clear to me that the times they are a-changin’ in ways that will benefit all of us. It’s clear in Bob Dylan’s home state of Minnesota and across the US.