One of the most exciting recent developments in energy policy here in Minnesota has been the introduction of a new program aimed at building more community solar gardens. As the west metro community coordinator, one of the most exciting things for me is to know Edina is helping lead the way by working to install one of the first new community solar gardens in the state.
First some background. These community solar gardens are centrally located solar arrays that use photovoltaic cells to turn the sun’s energy in to renewable electricity, not unlike putting solar panels on your house. But unlike solar panels that homeowners pay for out of their own pocket, these gardens are built for the long term and are open to anyone in the community who would like to subscribe and buy their electricity from a renewable source. In exchange for subscribing for up to 120% of their annual electricity usage, each subscriber receives credit for their purchase of solar power on each utility bill.
So why are these community solar gardens so exciting right now? Well for one thing they are a great way for people who can’t put solar panels on their roof, like folks who live in apartments, residents with a strict homeowners association, or people who can’t afford to install their own panels, to get access to the fast growing field of solar power. Likewise they help local communities all across the state leverage their own community’s resources to invest in projects much bigger than what any one person could afford on their own.
Which brings me to why things are so exciting in Edina. The city recently struck a deal with Cooperative Energy Futures and Xcel Energy to begin work on building a 550-kilowatt community solar garden on the roof of the city’s public works building. While the details of this project are still being worked it won’t be long until households all over Edina will be able to start getting their electricity from their own local community solar garden allowing all sorts of new people to participate in the transition from our current energy system to a clean energy future.