Community Solar

Community Solar

In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed into law a bill enabling community solar projects to begin moving forward in the state.  MRES was active in developing and supporting this opportunity that makes it easier for more people to choose renewable energy.

 

Going forward, we will be continuing to share information about developments in this exciting new area.  This page will continue to evolve so check back often.  Additionally, we'll be sharing information directly with those interested via a new email list.

Use the form to the right to sign up for our Community Solar mailing list.  Emails from MRES to this list will be exclusive to highlighting the latest news, projects, and even opportunities to participate in community solar.

Projects:

Wright-Hennepin Community Solar

WH partnered with Clean Energy Collective, a company out of Colorado to make this project a reality. Panels were on sale for $869, they may be sold out now but have plans to build more.

Connexus Energy

This Cooperative Utility partner with SolarWise to build a 245 kw community solar garden. They are stimating costs at $950 for a panel.

Lake Region Electric Cooperative

This cooperative utility in West Central MN has a 39 kw garden is selling subscriptions for $1500 per panel and is almost sold out.

Tri-County Electric Coop

This cooperative utility has named their community solar program Renewable Rays. They have a 73 kw garden. Their subscriptions sell for $1400 for a 20 year contract.

Heartland Power Cooperative

This cooperative serves nine counties in Iowa and three counties in Minnesota. It is installing a 850 kw community solar arrray near St Ansgar, Iowa in 2014/2015.

Projects Have Been Announced In:

Hennipen County

Ramsey County

Sibley County

Chisago County

 

Studies:

Advancing Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Goals: Distributed Generation Policy Choices in Net Metering and “Buy-All, Sell-All” By Katherine Tace James

Colorado Community Solar Gardens and the Policy Implications for MN

General Reports

The Colorado Community Solar Gardens Act and Implications for Minnesota Solar Gardens, Borchardt, Michael, 2013

A study by University of Minnesota Law Students contrasting the Colorado legislation with MN prospects

Community Renewables: Model Program Rules, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 2010. Defines community solar and outlines guidelines for program development

Community Solar Power: Obstacles and Opportunities, John Farrell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, September 2010.

Contains a great comparison of existing case studies based on defined criteria.

A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-profit Development, Northwest SEED, 2010

Outlines community solar models and contains case studies.

Background on the different Community Solar models

A 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system after adjusting for structural, shading, or ownership issues. As a result, it has been broadly recognized that the on-site solar market comprises only one part of the total market for solar energy.

The “Community Solar” concept has generated significant interest recently, region­ally and nationally. Despite the promise that Community Solar holds, navigating the maze of financial incentives, legal structures, and technical decisions make developing such a project a complicated process. Experience across the country has shown that there is no ideal Community Solar business model. Solar incentives vary from state to state and from utility to utility, as do solar resources and electricity prices.

The Department of Energy has funded Community Solar initiatives in many states from New York to Oregon to develop and implement models that engage diverse communities and create accessible pathways to clean energy ownership. The MRES Community Solar Program will be the first broad-scale effort in the Metro Area to establish a model that works in our unique financial, regulatory, and social context.

*Final MRES Community Solar Background Study: Download Here*

 

Solar Bulk Buy Programs

Solarize Guide Book, The City of Portland

This guidebook describes key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland, and offers several program refinements from projects beyond Portland. The guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate the success of Solarize Portland.

Local Program: Cooperative Energy Futures

Utility Programs

Colorado Solar Gardens

A Solar Garden is a community shared solar array with grid-connected subscribers. Homes and businesses, even if shaded by trees, receive a bill credit as if the panels were on their own roof using “virtual net metering”. This model was enabled by Colorado state legislation.

The Key to Exponential Solar Growth is Virtual Net Metering --And Solar Companies, Fred Torez (Solar Fred)

Solar LLCs and Special Purpose Entities

Several projects outlined in the reports listed under general reports discuss the LLC Model. This model is also currently being investigated by the local organization Cooperative Energy Futures.

Micro Investment

Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act

the CROWDFUND Act which has just been passed in Senate makes raising capital much easier for small businesses. The Act will allow companies to raise up to $1,000,000 annually through crowdfunding on ‘registered Internet web sites’. This means that US based start-ups will be able to issue shares in the business in exchange for equity. Companies with just 500 investors, currently have to make information about their funds public. The threshold will be increased to 2,000 investors when the Act is passed. This model holds significant potential for allowing multiple shareholders to more easily own a renewable energy project and benefit from the production.

Solar Mosaic

Solar Mosaic, a solar crowd-funding startup out of California, is already laying the groundwork to be a platform offering solar shares on projects across the country.The message on their dorment website currently reads: “On April 24th we filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and several states to offer Solar Power Notes to the public, with proceeds going to fund solar power projects. While we work with regulatory authorities on the details of our offering we are very limited in what we can say about the offering.”

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