Sunny outlook for solar in Minnesota
The market for solar energy in Minnesota is heating up.
Consumers and businesses installed a total of 72 photovoltaic systems statewide in 2009, up from the previous all-time record of 56 systems two years earlier, according to a study by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s office of energy security. The solar-electric systems put in place last year had a combined capacity of 784 kilowatts, well above the 286 kilowatts put in place in 2007. (It takes a 4-kilowatt system to power an energy-efficient home.)
A mix of federal and state incentives — and a new rebate program from Xcel Energy Inc. — are expected to boost the number of installations even higher in 2010.
Still, factors ranging from shady lots to limited availability of rebates can make it difficult for some consumers and businesses to get projects off the ground.
While Minnesota is known better for its abundance of wind than for its sun, the state has some advantages when it comes to solar energy. Notably, it has sunny winters, little fog and long days in the summer, said John Wold, who manages Minneapolis-based Xcel’s Solar Rewards rebate program.
So far, solar power in Minnesota has been more popular with consumers than companies. For instance, 192 consumers applied for rebates that are part of a stimulus-backed state solar program this year, compared to 112 companies, said Department of Commerce spokeswoman Nicole Garrison-Sprenger. Businesses had to have less than 20 employees to qualify for that program.
However, businesses have shown strong interest in Xcel’s Solar Rewards program, Wold said. Launched in March, Solar Rewards grants a $2.25-per-watt rebate for new solar-electric systems. The program has a $4.6 million annual budget. As of June 7, about $3.4 million of that was still available.
Read the full story, including details of Aveda Corp.'s plans for solar, in the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
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