Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Minnesota's cities and counties have embarked on a rare kind of collaboration

How this Upper Midwestern State Doubled Its Solar Capacity

BY ELIZABETH DAIGNEAU | JUNE 2017 | governing.com

Americans love solar. Almost 9 in 10 adults favor expanding it, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. But not everyone can put panels on their homes. For one thing, the upfront cost of solar can be prohibitive. For another, some people don’t have the space, or their rooftops may be too shady or may face the wrong direction, or they don’t even own their rooftops because they rent.

That’s where community shared solar comes in. Here’s how it works: Third parties set up solar panels on a parcel of land or rooftop. Households and businesses then share the electricity it produces through subscriptions. Community solar’s primary purpose is to give people access to solar power even if they cannot or prefer not to install it on their property.

As it turns out, the same things that make community solar ideal for households and businesses are what make it ideal for governments, too. Minnesota proved that last year when it roughly doubled its solar capacity thanks to a group of local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region. The solar boom in the state is largely the result of a 2013 law, which required Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, to create a third-party solar garden program. Inspired, a handful of cities and counties met in 2015 to discuss how they could take advantage of the program. The result was the Governmental Solar Garden Subscriber Collaborative.

For these localities individually, the cost of solar, as well as the time and staff needed to understand the financing and technology behind it, was a deal breaker. But as a collaborative, all the cities and counties had to do was subscribe. “They didn’t have to go through the hassle of managing an onsite installation,” says Trevor Drake, project manager at the Great Plains Institute, which provided organizing support to the group.

(More here.)

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