6 Unbiased Community Solar Resources for Minnesotans
If you’re a public official, landowner, or CFO in Minnesota chances are you’ve heard about Community Solar Gardens (CSGs) – you’ve probably heard A LOT about the program. It’s impossible to swing a dead cat right now without hitting a “developer” or financier involved with projects around our state. There seems to be about as much bad information out there as there is good information; how does a potential beneficiary decipher between the two?
Internet articles are hardly the most reputable sources of information– I get it, no offense taken. But before surfing away, you should know about several really good websites that help prospective solar subscribers and stakeholders understand the current landscape. Below is my list of top unbiased Minnesota CSG sources, in no particular order:
1.) Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS)
CERTS is a statewide coalition tasked with connecting individuals and clean energy projects in their communities. Their website has depth and plenty of resources, including Community Solar calculators, sample subscriber agreements, draft ordinances for counties and municipalities, and more. This is the most robust Minnesota-specific site, and it might be the most robust Community Solar site in the country.
2.) Xcel Energy
As the the country’s largest community solar administrator Xcel has a lot of information on their website. It’s chalk full of PDFs, public lists that include locations of gardens and whether or not they’re accepting new subscribers.
3.) MN Public Utilities Commission
The PUC regulates rule-making related to this and other utility programs. Docket #13-867 tracks any proposed changes or disputes. Here you can find a public record of all comments and decisions related to Xcel’s program, an inch wide and a mile deep.
4.) The MN Department of Commerce
This FAQ page gives good insights for residential and small commercial subscribers to understand program details. The DOC gives a simple playbook with good questions to ask a developer regarding the specifics of their offer.
5.) Fresh Energy
Mainly a collection of articles, if there’s news on the garden program Fresh Energy will cover it. The writers here are on top of any changes or insights that impact subscribers and developers alike. The site reads like an RSS feed, but the information is solid and, again, not biased toward any one developer.
6.) Minnesota Renewable Energy Society
Since the early 2000’s MRES has staked its claim as the #1 consumer voice for renewables (especially solar) in the state. They are undertaking a very compelling Community Solar Garden project that will include a large contingent of low-income subscribers. This will be one of the first projects of its kind in the country and should serve as a template for opening the market to more under-served communities. Their website’s done a good job of compiling other sources from around the net including links to other innovative projects like those taken on by Cooperative Energy Futures, with similar “Solar for All” ethos.
-Eric Pasi is Business Development Director at Innovative Power Systems – a Minnesota-based solar company specializing in commercial and community solar garden projects.