Minnesota residents have access to new community solar program
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A community solar garden allows residents to support renewable energy and save on their utility costs.
SunShare, a pioneer in the growing Community Solar model, has launched one of the largest residential Community Solar campaigns in the country, with a goal to enroll up to 5,000 Minnesota homes by December.
Under Minnesota's new Community Solar Program signed into law in 2013, customers served by Xcel Energy can now buy solar power from a Community Solar garden. For an average house, purchasing energy from 20 panels would eliminate the entire electric bill, according to SunShare.
"Everyone should have the chance to choose solar power, even if they rent, own a condo, can't afford high upfront costs of solar or simply have a roof that isn't suitable for solar panels," says SunShare's Founder and CEO David Amster-Olszewski. "Our goal is to help any citizen in the state of Minnesota choose solar energy located in their community for less than their current electric bill."
The electricity produced at the solar gardens will flow into Xcel Energy's grid and Xcel Energy will credit customers' bills with the energy the panels produce. Participants simply pay for their solar energy every month, just as they do with their utility bill. If a customer's share of the garden generates more power than they use, the energy credits will carry over to future bills. All participants stay connected to Xcel Energy's electric system and remain customers of Xcel Energy.
Sarah Casper, a community outreach leader, recently joined SunShare to spearhead the new program. Her community outreach team has already secured letters of interest from hundreds of Minnesotans after a two week pilot campaign SunShare launched earlier this spring.
"If you could just choose solar energy, pay nothing more for it, and fix in a known power price for the future, why wouldn't you?" Casper asked. "Now you can."
SunShare employs 23 people in Minnesota, and says it plans to double that number this year, based on customer interest.
In June SunShare announced it signed a contract with City of Cologne, a city of 1,500 in Carver County, to be powered 100% by Community Solar power. Cologne, which expects to save $1.1 million on the deal over 25 years, is the first local government in the state to entirely offset its municipal electricity with solar power.
Gary Swenson, mayor of the City of Starbuck where SunShare has proposed a Community Solar garden, voiced his support for the projects. "Today, Starbuck and SunShare are working together to create clean, renewable, local energy right in our community," he stated. "Community Solar is a great way for communities to foster economic growth, realize cost savings, and participate in safe, clean, renewable energy."
Read more about solar power for homes.