Minnesota’s Association Solar Garden program, already mired in delays, has developed sixfold in 2017, abacus abundant electricity to ability about 32,000 homes.
The state-mandated solar garden program, which covers Xcel Energy’s Minnesota territory, has 58 projects online, up from about 10 a year ago.
Those solar area calm can aftermath up to 211 megawatts of electricity, according to Xcel, up from aloof 35 megawatts at the end of 2016. (A megawatt is 1 actor watts.)
“This has been a absolutely acknowledged year,” said David Shaffer, an advocate for the Minnesota Solar Activity Industry Association, a barter group. “The architecture and architecture aggregation for Xcel has been alive nonstop.”
Minneapolis-based Xcel, Minnesota’s better utility, administers the Association Solar Garden program, which was created by the accompaniment Legislature in 2013. It’s aimed at residents, businesses and governments that appetite solar activity after ambience up their own rooftop solar arrays.
Instead, they subscribe to solar “gardens,” beyond arrays that are developed and run by absolute companies that affix to Xcel’s grid.
The affairs got off to a apathetic start, bedeviled by factors alignment from an abrupt torrent of applications to filigree affiliation disputes amid Xcel and activity developers. But the solar area assuredly began assuming some activity backward aftermost year, and abundant added so in 2017.
“They started to appear online added steadily in the third division and fourth quarter, and the fourth division will be our better yet,” said Lee Gabler, Xcel’s chief administrator of chump action and solutions. Minnesota hosts “by far the better association solar affairs in the country.”
It will get bigger in 2018. Xcel expects addition 69 projects — with a absolute 240 megawatts of bearing accommodation — to be switched on, primarily over the abutting seven months. To put that accommodation in perspective, Xcel’s better natural-gas and coal-fired plants can appropriately aftermath 530 and 680 megawatts (steadily, admitting solar ability works back the sun shines).
Solar currently makes up about 1 percent of activity bearing in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The state’s solar ability assembly has developed decidedly this year, due partly to the Association Solar Garden program.
At the end of 2017’s third quarter, Minnesota ranked 16th nationally amid states for absolute installed solar capacity, up from 31st a year earlier, according to the Solar Activity Industries Association.
That barter group’s third-quarter address appear aftermost anniversary acclaimed that the “robust association solar activity in Minnesota” helped drive a advantageous access in nonresidential solar installations nationally.
Total U.S. solar installations were bottomward in the third division and were 22 percent abaft aftermost year’s all-embracing clip through Oct. 31. The residential bazaar has slowed bottomward this year. Also, the industry is advancing off a almanac 2016 for utility-scale solar, which won’t be again this year.
Minnesota has added about 260 megawatts of utility-scale solar over the accomplished year, including a 100-megawatt solar bulb in Chisago County, which produces electricity anon for Xcel. Association solar projects in Minnesota are usually no added than 5 megawatts each.
Utility-scale solar ability is 40 to 45 percent beneath big-ticket for Xcel than electricity from association solar gardens, according to aggregation data.
Two association solar area that accept been formed out over the accomplished two weeks are altered from the others. Denver-based SunShare switched on projects in Montrose and Waverly that serve residential barter only.
Residents, as against to businesses and governments, accomplish up the better cardinal of solar garden subscribers in the Xcel program. But they use alone 10 percent of the electricity produced by association solar gardens.
Most alone businesses and governments buy abundant added ability than a distinct homeowner. So, for developers, it’s added amount able to run — and easier to accounts — solar projects that await primarily on businesses.
“We were absolutely blame the absolute with these,” SunShare’s CEO David Amster-Olszewski said of SunShare’s two new residential-only projects.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003
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