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So, have you been asking yourself, do solar energy systems work well in  Minnesota (MN) or Wisconsin (WI)? after hearing ads on the radio, TV, or seeing them online.......... Heck, yes they do!  And they can save you a ton of money on your electric bill. But don't just take my word for it, there are a lot of government resources out there, and I will outline some of those, but if you're someone that thinks jets are spraying toxins from the government, well I can't give you any information you think you know already.

 

solar near canada in ely minnesota

Recent solar panel installation North of Ely, Minnesota.

 

The Science-

So, solar works well in Minnesota because the sun delivers a good amount of irradiance to the state, even with all that snow. We figure all that information out through a platform called PVWatts, which uses weather stations (typically at Airports) around the state that are updating historical data over the past 10-20 years using pyranometers. 

Even with light snow and light rain, solar panels continue to make energy. Most responsible solar panel companies will provide each customer with estimated solar production taking all aspects into account, like; snow, rain, shading, etc. based on the information provided from sites like NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and similar. Below I provided a image of the United States on irradiance. We often compare how great the state of MN is vs. one of the worlds greatest solar producers, Germany. 

 

solar energy USA vs GermanyAnything above Blue Shades are better than Germany.

 

As for the science around the product, the panels are made with in all practicality, purified Rock! Or silicon, which happens to be the 2nd most abundant element on Earth's crust, 2nd only to Oxygen. Silicon makes up 28.2% of Earth's crust. Therefore, the mineral is cheap, but the process to create pure silicon brings it costs into play in purifying it. Cells are created by growing ingots to create the cells that are cut from the ingots today. Now, there are some technologies that you may or may not have heard of like printable cells, or paintable cells, but I am yet to see a durable new technology or one that offers the efficiency to make it worth while. Solar panels today have a theoretical maximum efficency of 33.16%, and today's modules are packing cells with 20%+. The difference between cell and module efficiency is approximately 2-5% due to connections and other factors I'll discuss in another post. But a module that is close to 20% has cells around ~23%. That means that todays modules (Q4 2017) have likely found that sweet spot for bang for the buck.

 

The Economics-

 So solar works well in MN and WI because of a few factors, we have a good solar resource with the sun, the efficiency of the products today, and the economies of scale with medium to large scale solar contractors. Image if, Xcel Energy or WE energies charged you without economies of scale, your transformer outside would cost $5,000 to install, your wires to your house, maybe $100,000. It's economies of scale that makes, cars cheaper, clothes affordable, etc. Solar has become a force in the Midwest and will continue to be for several years to come. 

Plus, we have the 30% federal tax credit, that allows anyone that pays federal taxes to get their own money back in the form of a tax credit, that you can receive over several years if needed. Some utilities also offer incentives like in MN, Xcel Energy, Dakota Electric, and MN power. In WI, Focus on Energy most likely offers a rebate from your utility, like We Energies or WPS. Find out if your property qualifies-->

 

The Products-

So, I have been designing and selling solar for 12+ years in Minnesota and Wisconsin as a licensed electrician, and over that time I have seen many technology trends, rebates, and manufactures, come and go, not only in the midwest but on the East and West Costs. Over that time its become clear between the conversations I have had with manufacturers and industry "experts", that solar is here to stay with the majority of market tricks a.k.a. "trends" died or dying off. Such as micro-inverters, centralized inverters, ULTRA DURABLE panels, reflected panels, etc.

The products we choose to use at my company are based on the industry movement. As an example in MN, we HAD a incentive called MN Made, and the two manufacturers we had to choose from for years was, Silicon and TenK. Now, we flew out to Washington to get trained on Silicon modules long before they where in MN, indicating our commitment, but never installed a single module actually made from Silicon, because their product was waaaaay to expensive and I didn't see a function in the market, well they are out of business now. TenK, almost the same discussion, I had several tours of their facility long before they hit commercial production, in fact their engineers would ask me for my expertise on some of the visits, only to never install any of their product only, because I knew their approach to the market was all wrong with their "technology". I watched local companies pitch their questionable product in disagreeance as they where outside of the industry standard. I compare it to tires, when a round tire works fine, why would you make a octagon tire? Does it work, yes, do you need a special incentive to sell it, yes..... well I'm out! In my long point, we will always be on the cutting edge of the evolution of technology, but will not simply pick the manufacturer that is waaaay outside of the box without economies of scale in their factor. 

Well, I may have gone on some rants, but I hope it all made sense. If you have any questions please reach out to us and thanks for reading, as always, there is more to come. 

 

Minnesota Public radio ran a story Monday on Community Solar in Minnesota. One of the featured sources was Able Energy President Michael Harvey.

The article does a nice job of outlining how Minnesota solar customers can benefit, both financially and environmentally, from buying into a solar panel array that is part of Xcel Energy's Community Solar program.

You can read the full MPR article, here.

Solar panels for community solar

A solar garden in Wright-Hennepin. Photo by Star Tribune.

solar panels in wisconsin

 

The largest community solar garden in Wisconsin will have 2816 panels. Each are 310-watts and will be installed by Able Energy Co., of River Falls, Wis.

Able Energy President, Michael Harvey, along with a handful of executives, broke ground on an 858-kilowatt community solar garden at Eau Claire Electric Cooperative in Fall Creek, Wis., yesterday. It is the first step in the construction process that will turn a well-manicured field tucked behind the co-op’s headquarters into a massive solar panel array.

The project, called MemberSolar, will be the largest community solar array in the state of Wisconsin when completed. 

“We expect this project to provide clean energy to Eau Claire residents for more than 30 years,” Harvey said. “It is a great partnership between the electric co-op and its members.”

The array itself will be an impressive construction project. The panels will sit atop Schletter racking and run the length of the 600-foot feet. There will be nine rows in total oriented toward the south. The project will be enclosed in a ten-foot industrial fence.

The energy benefit from the solar panels will be no less impressive.

“Each panel will provide enough energy to keep an average light bulb on for 6,700 hours,” Harvey said.

The solar energy generated from the MemberSolar array could offset the entire energy bill of more than 85 homes. The project is expected to go online by October 1.

Able Energy was pleased to be chosen for this project, Harvey said, “We’re a local company and this project will serve local residents.”

The MemberSolar project was created by the Eau Claire Electric Cooperative.

“We responded to our members’ wishes and needs and we are anxious to bring this to a reality,” said Lynn Thompson, CEO at ECEC.

For more information on MemberSolar, -------> click here. 

For more information on other solar projects, -------> click here. 

by Ben Ganje
A few weeks ago, Elon Musk unveiled his new home battery system and daily cycle controller called the Tesla Power Wall. It is an exciting development in the solar world. Although the battery technology he unveiled has been around for a while (and is a bit cheaper without his brand on it), when the world’s most ambitious entrepenuer stands up and puts electric utilities on notice, people listen.  
We listened. 
 
Right now, solar systems throughout the country benefit most — financially, speaking — from being grid-tied. By keeping connected to the electric utility consumers benefit from net metering. Net metering means that your utility will pay you for that excess solar energy. As it spills back onto the grid, the utility will pay or credit you at retail rate. It is a very beneficial for both the customer and the utility. 
 
However, times change. As they do, some net metering laws may get rolled back or altered by state law. If they do, having a solar system that is equipped to add a battery system is a great idea. That’s why, starting now, we will equip our systems with Solar Edge inverters and optimizers. 
 
This is a big move for us and our customers. Solar Edge will allow for more versatile string sizing, meaning we can fit more panels on your roof. The optimizers also reduce the voltage during a power outage, which meets code for rapid shut-down in most cities. It also replaces the need for micro-inverters in nearly all occasions. The most pressing advantage for using micro-inverters is shading and a little extra production by inverting at the panel level. Solar Edge optimizers will do the same thing as a micro-inverter. 
 
We can do all of that with Solar Edge and still be ready to add Tesla’s Power Wall when the time is right. The video below is a great overview of how a solar system with DC optimizers works. Check it out.
 
If you are looking for more information, please click here
 
 

Able Energy Co was selected as the solar developer for the Eau Claire Energy Cooperative's MemberSolar program. A Community Solar program for the E.C.E.C. members, members can purchase a panel for $650 to offset some to all of their electricity on each member's electric bill for up to 20 years.

We are excited to partner with such a great cooperative and we look forward to moving this project forward in a timely and successful manner. 

SM-Community-Solar-WI-Site

Able Energy Co has been working on the Community Solar program in MN, within the Xcel Energy territory. With their program MyCommunitySolar™ we have established ourselves as one of the leaders in community solar development. For more information on the E.C.E.C. MemeberSolar program, visit http://weknowsolar.com/images/PDFs/ECEC-AbleMarch2015.pdf to view the press release.