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Bonding bill includes bright news for solar energy future

A new $500 million bonding bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law includes an option for public buildings to take advantage of solar energy.

Advocates say it will help state schools, hospitals, police stations, and other public buildings to install solar energy this year and into the future.

Solar Works for Minnesota said the measure is a good first step toward creating jobs in both construction and manufacturing across Minnesota. Solar Works is a statewide coalition of more than 150 businesses, labor groups, and nonprofits working to advance solar energy in Minnesota

The provision will allow public building projects financed by bonding to use 5 percent of the project cost for solar photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal systems, providing local, clean energy for electricity, heating, and cooling for public buildings.

The fuel is free, bringing long-term utility bill savings to thousands of Minnesota public buildings - including classrooms in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) and other state-funded buildings.

Solar Works for Minnesota noted that this translates to direct savings for those responsible for paying the state utility bills - the taxpayers.

Randy Hagen, president of Solar Skies in Alexandria, said the legislation bodes well for the state's future.

"Including solar on Minnesota's schools, hospitals, and other public buildings in the bonding bill shows bipartisan support for Minnesota-made energy and companies like Solar Skies," he said in a news release. "It provides a way to grow solar manufacturing in the state - bringing jobs to Minnesota - and reducing the heating costs of our public buildings."

This legislation is an opportunity for more money in taxpayers' pocketbooks and more jobs for Minnesotans, according to Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

"The AFL-CIO applauds this bipartisan solar bonding provision as a path to get Minnesota workers back on the job and create good, local, union jobs in clean energy for Minnesota," Knutson said. "Solar is a booming business and we want to make sure that Minnesota's working men and women are at the forefront of manufacturing and installing Minnesota's solar energy future."

Many Minnesota business partners supported the legislation, including Gary Shaver, president and CEO of Silicon Energy, based in Mt. Iron, who praised the job creation and economic development potential of this bonding provision.

"As Minnesota's newest solar manufacturer, we are excited that Minnesota has made a commitment to install made-in-Minnesota solar products on state buildings in the bonding bill," Shaver said.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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