Steve Schmidt teaches a college class on renewable energy and always wanted to install solar panels on his Corcoran home but found the cost prohibitive. Yet last year he became an energy producer after buying one panel in Minnesota’s first community-based solar project.
Sponsored by Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, the community solar project will be built on a small, treeless hill behind its Rockford office.
“To put a few panels on my roof along with the micro-inverters would cost more than $30,000, and I don’t have that much money,” Schmidt said. “This program is an easy way into supporting solar.”
A community solar program offers utility customers or residents in a neighborhood or city a chance to buy panels and have them installed in a communal area that might be a community center or a library rooftop or on the grounds of a utility. A nonprofit, utility or municipality typically organizes the projects. If Wright-Hennepin’s experience is any indication, it could be popular in other places.
The utility, which serves cities in the western suburbs, sold 171 panels at $869 each in just four months. The project will use solar panels from Bloomington-based TenKSolar, which will provide 53,000 kilowatts of power, enough to take care of the energy needs of four homes. Wright-Hennepin’s is the first community solar project in the nation to incorporate battery storage, which will be provided by Baxter-based Silent Power Inc.
If you didn’t know, the Midwest Independent System Operator or MISO is responsible for delivering cost-effective electric power to Minnesota and 14 other states in the U.S., as well as parts of Canada. MISO and its members attempt to strengthen the transmission network while bringing benefits to their consumers.
One way they do this is through adding forms of renewable energy to the power grid. Currently in Minnesota and the Midwest, wind is the most abundant clean energy resource. In addition to wind, we also utilize biomass power from trees, animal waste and plant matter, and hydropower from flowing water. Over the past several years MISO has been integrating more wind power initiatives into the power grid, and we dug a little deeper to find out what this means for Minnesota.
Click here to read more.
Kiley Bastian, Clean Energy Project Builder
SLAYTON, Minn. - A new system built near Slayton with more than 7,000 solar panels is part of the boom in solar installations in Minnesota and across the United States—the latest sign of a banner year for solar installations.
Renewable power developer Ecos Energy said 7,040 solar panels outside of Slayton, MN began producing power Friday after being connected to Xcel Energy’s distribution system. The solar array is the largest in the state, with 2 megawatts of output, the equivalent of the power used by 250 homes.
The project has 32 rows of solar panels covering an area the size of 7.5 football fields on what once was a cornfield. “There was no celebration, but it is nice to get these things running,” said Chris Little, director of development for Ecos Energy, based in Minneapolis.
David Shaffer, Star Tribune
Washington, D.C. - The wind energy industry in the U.S. breathed a sigh of relief as Congress passed a fiscal cliff deal on Tuesday that included an extension of the wind energy tax credits for wind projects that start in 2013. The wind energy tax credits — which began in the early 1990s but have expired at least three times over the years — were set to expire at the end of 2012, and if expired, would have frozen wind project construction in the U.S.
Katie Fehrenbacher, GIGAOM
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) jointly released two reports examining solar photovoltaic (PV) pricing in the U.S.
The first report, Photovoltaic (PV) Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections, examines progress in PV price reductions to help DOE and other PV stakeholders manage the transition to a market-driven PV industry and to provide clarity surrounding the wide variety of potentially conflicting data available about PV system prices. By examining progress in PV price reductions, the report will also help DOE track progress toward the SunShot goals of reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by roughly 75 percent between 2010 and 2020. The joint report indicates that PV system prices in the U.S. have been falling rapidly during the past decade, and are likely to continue their downward trend through 2012 and into 2013.
Last week, the Endurance S-343 and Eveready Kestrel e400 joined 7 other models in reaching Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) milestones.
The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) has issued its first Limited Power Performance certification to the Endurance Wind Power S-343, and its sixth Conditional Temporary Certification to the Eveready Kestrel e400nb 250, bringing the tally to nine turbine models now partially or fully SWCC-certified.
“We are pleased to see a varied selection of products progressing through the SWCC certification process enabling greater customer choice and consistent consumer ratings,” noted SWCC Executive Director Larry Sherwood. “Our growing list of certifications is aiding incentive programs with establishing eligibility and allowing easier comparison shopping, helping small wind turbines gain mainstream acceptance.”
In 2008 the Twin Cities were selected to participate in the Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities project. Before involvement with the Solar America Cities program, the Twin Cities had a solar capacity of roughly one megawatt (MW). After four years in the program, the Twin Cities has nearly doubled their solar capacity in the metro area. The DOE recently published a report which highlights the exciting development of the solar energy projects in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Moving forward, the group has set goals, to help guide the development of the solar efforts in the Twin Cities area. Plans are in the works to develop solar systems in conjunction with the light-rail systems within the metro area. The group also has its eye’s on re-working legislation to help bring in large scale solar installations to the state.
Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
General Electric (GE) and Enel Green Power North America are partnering to create a 200 megawatt (MW) wind farm near Hardwick, MN. The 305 million dollar “Prairie Rose” project will generate enough power for roughly 75,000 homes, and will prevent an estimated 650,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year and will help boost the local economy.
Adam Johnston, Clean Technica
Recently the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined the potential for renewable energy sources to meet the United States’ electricity demands in the coming years. The focus of the study was on examining the effects of utilizing high volumes of renewable energy resources simultaneously, and the challenges of an electrical grid composed of primarily alternative energy sources.
The study found that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country. An alternative energy “grid” would require increased electric system flexibility, to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, which could come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations. This is feasible due to the abundance and diversity of the United States potential sources of alternative energy. The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios. Improvement in the cost and performance of renewable technologies is the most impactful lever for reducing this incremental cost.
US Department of Energy, NREL
Rebecca Lundberg and Dan Williams, the owners and operators of Powerfully Green in Champlin, MN, fly by night as Little Miss Sunshine and Watt Weenie. They have been bringing renewable energy to Minnesota's Twin Cities and surrounding areas since 2007 by installing high-quality solar electric and thermal systems. Watch a Clean Energy Superhero video to learn more about their work!