To the editor:
As the global COVID-19 pandemic has swept across Minnesota, it has taken several clean energy jobs with it — especially in the solar energy industry.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the novel coronavirus has led to the loss of 1,181 jobs in Minnesota, a 49 percent cut from the original forecast for solar jobs this year. As recently as 2019, the solar industry employed 4,335 Minnesotans. Meanwhile, throughout the second quarter of 2020 (April, May and June), the state lost out on 11.71 megawatts of solar energy deployment due to COVID-19-related delays, a loss of 64 percent.
As adoption of solar energy continues to expand in rural Minnesota and the state relies less on fossil fuel sources, such as coal, officials can embrace this change to create jobs and expand the state’s economy. Supporting the solar industry will help farmers, small businesses and homeowners cut down on energy costs and diversify income streams. Simultaneously, lease and tax payments have flowed into local, especially rural, economies — empowering them to invest in roads, schools and local businesses.
Local and state officials looking for ways to build an energy-independent future for Minnesotans should seriously consider policies supporting solar energy, which is a proven economic development opportunity and may be an innovative way to anchor an unpredictable economy.
More information and resources about the responsible siting of projects and the economic impact of solar in rural Minnesota can be found at cfra.org/publications.
Policy assistant, Center for Rural Affairs
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.