The state of has been busy in the last several years. Despite its location and the harsh, winter months experienced in the region, you may be surprised to learn that Minnesota actually has annual  resources that match parts of Florida and Texas. In fact, according to the 2018 Solar Potential Analysis Report released last November, it is possible that nearly 70% of Minnesota’s electric load will be covered by wind and solar utility by 2050 given the state’s current trajectory.   

If there is one particular advantage the state of Minnesota has when it comes to , it is land space. 37% of the state’s land is used for agricultural purposes. This means there is plenty of wide, open space available on farmlands and in other areas where sunlight can meet the land without interference from trees or other structures.  

Agricultural production in Minnesota actually declined by 7 percent between 1997 and 2007, and yet agricultural yields were higher than ever before, thanks to innovations like biotechnology. This means that more crop is being produced with less land space, leaving certain agricultural production sites open for other purposes, such as solar panel placement and clean generation. 

In addition to the availability of land space for future clean energy projects and the promising solar energy statistics we have seen from the state so far, several groups in Minnesota are working to make solar energy an integrated part of everyday life, while helping consumers and utility providers alike. 

Pollinator-Friendly Plants and Solar Energy  

One particular solar project in the state of Minnesota is not only helping solar energy output, but also helping to enrich the bee and butterfly populations in the region. Pollinator-friendly plants can be seen planted under solar energy panels at various solar energy sites across the state. It has long since been hypothesized that thick vegetation planted underneath solar panels creates a cooler microclimate overall, which then helps boost the energy output from the solar panels. For years now, the Center for Pollinators in Energy has been working with entities like Xcel Energy and Fresh Energy in order to plant milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants at solar energy sites. It is anticipated that over the course of 25 years or so, the pollinator plants will actually improve the health of the soil, on top of providing clean, solar energy for local residents for decades to come. 

 Adoption 

In addition to creative solar projects that prove to be a win-win for the Environnement, Minnesota is also improving certain policies and procedures surrounding their solar energy consumers. Last Month, Minnesota became the first state in the U.S. to adopt a Value of Solar” methodology for their community solar customers. Value of Solar is an approach that considers the unique factors of solar energy usage in a given area in order to generate a fair market value price that benefits both consumers and solar energy providers. While Austin Energy in Texas is the only utility provider in the country that currently uses Value of Solar, Minnesota is the first state to approve Value of Solar use on a statewide scale. 

According to Allen Gleckner, a policy director for Fresh Energy in Minnesota and one of the primary supporters of the switch to Value of Solar, this transition will give solar energy customers a transparent rate of pay that will be based on a 25-year bill credit schedule. Overall, it is anticipated that the move to Value of Solar will improve access to community solar programs for certain low- and middle-income households, as well as ease any apprehension that new solar energy customers may have when it comes to making the switch. 

The Future of Solar in Minnesota 

Policy leaders and solar energy supporters in Minnesota will need to continue to work together in the coming decades as the state strives to reach both the Solar Energy Standard (SES) goals and Renewable Energy Standard (RES) goals that have been set. Solar energy leaders and other entities will need to continue to make careful and creative decisions in order to make sure Minnesota’s switch to solar and clean energy utility yields the most benefits possible. 

Resources: 

https://energynews.us/2016/07/22/midwest/value-of-solar-gains-another-foothold-in-minnesota/ 

https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2019/06/minnesota-has-plenty-of-land-for-solar-development/ 

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/06/20/pollinatorfriendly-solar-energy-becomes-the-norm-in-minnesota 

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