Minnesota solar electric installations grow in 2012
New Minnesota solar electric installations in 2012 nearly tripled in capacity compared with 2011, according to figures compiled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.
"Solar is gaining a bigger role in Minnesota's clean energy economy," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "We are working hard with utilities and others to ensure that we incorporate solar energy into our portfolio of renewable energy resources. While solar power still represents a very small portion of the total electric power in Minnesota, solar in Minnesota continues to make substantial progress and will continue to do so as it becomes more and more affordable."
In 2012, 299 solar electric, or solar photovoltaic (PV), systems with a capacity of 4,844 kilowatts (kW) were installed in businesses, residences and nonprofit organizations. The 299 systems were the most since 2010 (265 installations) and greatly exceed the 164 installations and 1,771 kW in 2011. One of the largest factors in the increase was the installation of the new solar array at the Ikea store in Bloomington, accounting for 1,014 kW. Its claim as Minnesota's biggest single solar PV system was eclipsed on January 4, 2013, when a 2,000 kW (2 megawatts) system went live in Slayton.
Minnesota currently has over 1,100 solar PV installations with total capacity of a little more than 13,000 kW. While Minnesota ranks in the middle among states for total solar PV capacity, it is well behind solar leaders California (1,563 MW through 2011), New Jersey (566 MW), and Arizona (398 MW). Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power lead the state as utilities with the most installations: Xcel Energy has 777 with capacity of 11,113 kW, and Minnesota Power has 104 installations with 294 kW of capacity.
"The solar installation gains of 2012, coupled with the strides in all renewable energy initiatives continue to move Minnesota forward as a national leader in renewable energy," said Commissioner Rothman. "The culmination of all our efforts establishes the state as open for business in the clean energy economy, working to create jobs while providing renewable energy options for consumers."
Installing solar is becoming more affordable, especially with federal, state, and utility incentives. The Residential Renewable Energy Federal Tax Credit is in place through 2016. It provides a 30 percent tax credit and applies to solar electric and solar thermal systems. Several Minnesota utilities offer rebate programs to help fund solar for homes and businesses. Additionally, renewable energy financing opportunities may be available for rural businesses through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program. Several tax exemptions, including a state sales tax exemption for solar systems in general, are available to Minnesota residents and businesses.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org provides a comprehensive, up-to-date list of incentives for solar and other renewable energy projects.