Minnesota’s Growing Community Solar Market Just Got Bigger

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Minnesota’s Community Solar Market is Growing

With 80 MW of community solar projects expected to come online over the next few years, Minnesota has one of the fastest-growing markets for community solar.

And thanks to a new ruling from the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, the market may have just gotten even bigger, said Cory Honeyman, senior analyst at GTM Research.

At issue before the PUC was the size of community solar gardens. They were earlier capped at 1 MW, but the PUC ruled that 1-MW gardens could be aggregated to create 5 MW gardens, creating utility-scale sized gardens.

“Before the ruling, technically each individual project could be up to 1 MW in size,” Honeyman said. “But there was some debate about whether you could site a bunch of 1 MW projects on the same property and pitch the community solar to multiple customers.”

Before the PUC ruling, if you looked at the projects from a helicopter, you’d conclude that many didn’t qualify because they were too big, he said.

But now that’s changed. “Now developers can develop up to 5 MW in size,” he said. “There’s an expectation that the market will go from adding to a few 100 KW to adding a really impressive 200 MW plus.”

The market in this state is growing because there’s no cap on the total megawatts of community solar that can be developed. “In addition, a favorable legislative landscape provides credits at full retail electric rates plus credits sold to Xcel energy,” he said.

The PUC’s decision was “bold and important,” Honeyman said. The decision likely positions Minnesota’s community solar market to be one of the hottest solar growth opportunities in the US in the next 1.5 years, he said.

“There’s a lot of reason to expect the market will be even larger than what we project,” Honeyman said. “We have Minnesota pegged to be one of the largest community solar markets.”

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