The innovations were laid out in a 76-page report that included implementation on a mass scale across the state by 2050. The report plans to retire Minnesota’s current coal energy system, reduce the use of gas and fossil fuels, as well as create new jobs in the solar sector. This ambitious report highlights several critical areas that will be affected once Minnesota begins to use these solar technologies as laid out in Minnesota’s Smarter Grid report.  

Decarbonization Efforts 

Household energy costs are set to decrease by 2050 for Minnesota residents by approximately 30 percent, saving the average household anywhere from $600 to $1,200 per year. Decarbonization, one of the primary goals of the project, is mostly responsible for these yearly savings. The process of decarbonization over the next several decades will benefit residents in revolutionary ways, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonization goes hand-in-hand with electrification, as these new solar technologies put increased demand on the state’s electrical grid. The report stated these increased demands will be offset by the efficiency of these solar innovations and the decreased cost overall for the state and its residents. 

Using Photovoltaic Solar Technology 

One of the primary technologies discussed in the report was photovoltaic, or PV, solar technology. PV solar technology is most typically found on rooftops and works to convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic solar power is considered to be a part of the third-generation of solar-powered materials, which use highly concentrated materials to create solar energy. They are typically more expensive, but require far less material to operate, reducing the cost overall.  

PV technology was initially discovered in 1954 by scientists at Bell Telephone when they discovered that an electrical charge could be generated if silicon were exposed to sunlight. Soon after their discovery, solar cell technology became more commercialized. Advancements over the last several decades have evolved solar cell technology and allowed it to become even more concentrated and efficient. PV solar technology, in particular, uses mirrors or plastic pieces to reflect sunlight. In this way, “Rooftop solar PV does not have a transmission cost associated with it, and the losses are assumed to be the average of the distribution grid,” according to the report.  

Jobs in the Solar Power Sector 

Apart from detailed data and plans for how solar technology will be properly implemented across Minnesota, the report addresses the probability that jobs in the solar sector will grow exponentially. According to the executive summary released with the report, employment in the solar energy field will nearly triple, particularly for photovoltaic and wind solar technologies. More than 36,000 jobs in the solar industry and over 14,000 in solar wind technology are expected by 2050. Even with the loss of jobs in the coal and natural gas sectors, employment across the state is set to increase substantially.  

Additional Benefits to Solar Power Implementation 

Aside from a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient energy production, and an increase in jobs in the solar energy sector, the use of solar technologies detailed by Vibrant Energy LLC and the McKnight Foundation in their report also promises the improvement of air quality. Their overall goal is to improve energy efficiency and cost by using the latest solar power innovations, while also being mindful of the potential burden solar technologies can place on other state departments, such as the transportation and electricity sectors. The benefits of the solar technologies detailed in the report continually outweigh the potential downsides.  

According to Kate Wolford, President of the McKnight Foundation, this project will “significantly reduce air pollution, increase human health, and boost our economy,” with the rise of new jobs and lowered efficiency costs over the next several decades. Her consensus, as well as the consensus among leaders in the field, is that these plans will benefit statewide businesses and residents alike. 

You can read the full report here. 

Resources 

https://www.mcknight.org/wp-content/uploads/MNSmarterGrid-VCE-FinalVersion-LR-1.pdf 

https://www.nrel.gov/workingwithus/re-photovoltaics.html 

https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2018/08/could-minnesota-reliably-meet-all-energy-demands-on-clean-energy-and-save-money-too.html 

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