by Kris Sipe

2014 was a big year for solar, especially in Minnesota. Governor Dayton’s Solar Energy Jobs Act went into effect, and introduced revamped solar incentive programs for investor owned utilities. Minnesota increased its solar capacity at staggering rates, and Able Energy was lucky enough to be a big part of that growth. 2015 will prove to be exponentially bigger; it is possible that 2015 will be the first year in which over half of new electricity generation capacity in the U.S. will come from solar. In Minnesota, several incentive programs, along with the best net metering laws in the country and a 30 percent federal tax credit make it an unprecedented time to install solar at your home. With Able Energy’s MyCommunitySolar, you can take advantage of solar even if you don’t have the ability to install it on your home. 

Here is a breakdown of the programs available in Minnesota, and the reasons you should contact Able Energy about going solar now!

Minnesota Made 

The Made in Minnesota (MiM) solar program has existed for several years. Under the Solar Energy Jobs Act it was revamped as an incentive based program available for customers in Xcel, Minnesota Power, Ottertail and Aliant territory. The program pays customers a return for the solar they produce, far beyond standard net metering. Previously, the program was limited to 2 panel manufacturers using proprietary technology outside of standard solar manufacturing. For the first time, in 2015, 2 manufacturers will be making panels in Minnesota that are comparable to some of the best Tier 1 manufacturers in the world. The MiM solar program is one of the most aggressive in the country, literally paying for the cost of the system over 10 years, while the owner enjoys virtually eliminating their energy bill. The Made in Minnesota program is essentially FREE solar. The program is lottery based, and applications need to be entered by February 28, 2015. 

Solar Sense 

Solar Sense is an incentive for Minnesota Power customers, which gives them up to $20,000 towards the cost of their system. Again, it is one of the best incentives in the country, and one of the last system credit based programs. Along with the 30% federal tax credit, Solar Sense customers see 60 - 75% of their system paid for! For 2015, Minnesota Power has allocated $150,000 for the program, so it is extremely limited. It is also a lottery based program, and applications need to be submitted by February 28, 2015. 

Solar Rewards

For Xcel customers who want to go a more traditional route, Solar Rewards offers a production credit beyond traditional net metering returns, for 10 years. Solar Rewards installations take advantage of the major drop in solar prices, as well as the 30% federal tax credit, and see an outlay substantially lower than the Made in Minnesota program, while still seeing an amazing return on investment of 6 – 7 years. Solar Rewards is open now, and is available on a first come first serve basis.

Net Metering in Minnesota

For customers outside of the investor owned utilities, Minnesota has the most consumer friendly net metering rules in the country. Under Minnesota law, customers receive a direct reduction in usage from their solar system, and are paid back their utility’s retail rate for anything they produce beyond their usage! With the 30% federal tax credit and falling solar prices, some customers are seeing a 10 year return on investment. With new panels carrying a 30 year warranty, that’s two decades of free energy! 

Community Solar

Last, but certainly not least, Community Solar is coming to Minnesota! Community Solar is a great way to go solar without the panels and still reap the financial and environmental benefits.  In Minnesota, Community Solar was approved October 2014 for Xcel Energy customers. Any Xcel customer who lives in the same county as the array (or solar garden) can participate in the program, reducing energy bills for renters or where a solar installation is not practical or possible. In most cases, Community Solar from Able Energy is a lower electricity rate than the utility rate you are buying now. The minimum agreement is 10 years and can be subscribed for up to 25 years. As energy prices rise, you can lock in your electricity rate with a predictable escalator that is less than the average rate increase by Xcel Energy.