Xcel Energy Now Accepting Applications For Community Solar Gardens
Xcel Energy Inc. is now accepting applications from third-party energy developers to build solar parks or community solar gardens that its customers will be able to subscribe.
The Minnesota program will become the company’s second such initiative, after one in Colorado. Customers will be able to subscribe to the gardens, which are arrays of solar panels built at centralized locations. The customers would save money on their electricity bills for their portion of energy produced.
Xcel is marketing the program, formally called “Solar*Rewards Community,” to customers who can’t use other solar programs because they rent, live in multi-family dwellings, their homes or businesses aren’t suitable for solar installations or they don’t want to manage rooftop installations.
The company, which serves 1.2 million Minnesota electric customers, said developer interest is high and the first solar gardens are expected to be operating by mid-2015. In a news release Friday, regional vice president Chris Clark said larger solar developments usually cost less to install than putting solar panels on individual rooftops. Because of this, solar power can be made more affordable and convenient, he said.
Xcel touted high interest from independent developers. Laura McCarten, another Xcel regional vice president, told the Star Tribune that at least a dozen developers are interested in building the gardens. McCarten said Minnesota could reach 100 megawatts of new solar capacity, or the output of a midsize power plant, by the end of 2015. Right now, it has roughly 14 megawatts of solar power now on its system in Minnesota. One megawatt provides enough energy to serve about 250 homes.
According to the newspaper, Xcel’s Minnesota program does not place a limit on the number of solar parks that can be built in the state. An official told the Star Tribune that the company would publish a list of pending and approved solar gardens on its website, but interested customers must sign up with the project developers and not Xcel.