Minnesota On Track To Be A Top Solar State In 2016
Minnesota is poised to become a solar energy leader this year, according to industry projections by the state’s Commerce Department.
With an influx of installations expected in 2016, the state’s solar capacity is expected to increase by over 500 megawatts, enough to power Minnesota’s fifth- and sixth-largest cities, Duluth and Brooklyn Park. If the estimated installations are accurate, it will be the largest solar expansion in state history by a significant margin. In 2015, the state increased its solar energy capacity by a mere 35 megawatts.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) typically places Minnesota in the middle of the pack in its national rankings list for solar installations. If this year’s state-by-state solar installation growth trends remain consistent with SEIA’s 2015 findings, Minnesota could have the nation’s third-largest solar expansion, outranked only by California and North Carolina.
“Solar is a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture that promises to get even bigger and brighter in the coming years,” Minnesota Commerce commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement.
Most of the state’s solar growth is coming from utility-scale projects, rooftop panels, and community solar gardens being built, Rothman added. Two of the larger-scale developments in the works are the North Star Solar project in North Branch (100 megawatts) and the Aurora Solar project in 16 Minnesota counties (100 megawatts).
State public policy changes and the shrinking cost of solar—down 53 percent since 2010—are heavy contributors to solar growth.
Last year, more than one-fifth of electricity generated in Minnesota came from renewable sources, a threefold increase in the amount created a decade ago.
The solar surge comes with economic benefits too: Businesses in the clean energy sector are expected to create 2,300 jobs in the next year. Minnesota also has one of the largest clean energy workforces in the Midwest with roughly 54,500 employees.