Solar gardens, community solar programs, and municipal buildings with solar panels are popping up all across Minnesota. That’s because the renewable energy sources of solar and wind are now the two cheapest forms of energy in our state. Over the past seven years the cost of solar energy in the Midwest has dropped by 85%.
For Minnesotans, renewable energy means more than lower utility bills, it also means less mercury in our lakes and pollution in our air. The increase in solar programs also means good paying jobs for Minnesotan’s in every part of the state.
Communities across the state are part of this momentum. Here are just a few examples.
The city of St. Cloud has embraced the use of solar energy in a real way! Today the city has two solar arrays at its waste water treatment plant with others at their police station and two fire stations. Over the next decade city officials predict the city’s energy cost will drop from about $3 million per year to about half a million, due in part to their investments in solar.
Earlier this year Central Municipal Power Community Services announced a community-based solar option for residents in Blue Earth, Granite Falls, Janesville, Kasson, Kenyon, and Sleepy Eye. Subscribers pay fees to cover a share of the costs associated with the solar panels and in return they receive credits to offset their utility bill.
St. Johns University has long been a leader in solar power, they installed their first experimental solar farm back in 2009. Earlier this year a third phase, known as the Orion Community Solar Garden, went online. It is capable of generating enough electricity to power about 525 homes.
In Ramsey, Connexus Energy and Bolton Bees are partnering to do more than just produce energy. The Connexus solar farm is also providing pollinator habitat around the solar panels. Recently the mutually beneficial concept of mixing pollinator habitat and solar panels has been gaining popularity and the Bolton Bee folks are generating national buzz around their new but hopefully not unique partnership.
The solar farm at Camp Ripley is one of the largest farms on state lands and is the largest solar farm within the Minnesota Power territory. This installation generates enough energy to power about 2,000 Minnesota homes. Camp Ripley is using solar as one component of their plan to become completely energy independent.
In March, after being awarded a Minnesota Municipal Power Agency’s Hometown Solar Grant, the East Grand Forks school board approved a solar panel installation at South Point Elementary School. Schools have been drawn to solar technologies. In addition to saving energy, the panels provide great student learning opportunities.
Last year Fond Du Lac reservation installed a solar farm that now generates 10% of the energy for Black Bear Casino and at peak times up to 50%. When it went online it was the largest solar installation in the Minnesota Power territory. Shortly after, the larger solar array at Camp Ripley went online.
Visit the News Stream on our website to find the latest renewable energy and conservation news throughout Minnesota.
The future of renewable energy is exciting. At Conservation Minnesota, we will continue to ensure Minnesota remains a leader.