Fall is the time to start planning for a solar PV (electricity) installation for the coming year.
You can learn more about solar energy by taking a class at the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES). This organization also offers site assements. A preliminary site assessment can be done quickly using Google, but if your site looks promising, a more detailed assessment will be needed. MRES does this for $175 for homeowners.
You should also talk to one or more solar installers. If you live in Longfellow, you can contact the solar installer located right in our neighborhood: Applied Energy Innovations at 4000 Minnehaha Avenue (612-532-0384).*
In the past, property owners would have submitted the paperwork for their project to the Xcel “Solar Rewards” program, which offered incentives and rebates for solar PV installations. Xcel is no longer accepting submissions for that program. Xcel’s website says that they will be “working with the MN Department of Commerce” to “interpret” the [heavily watered-down] energy bill that passed the 2013 legislative session before it takes any future action. I take that to mean ‘see how little action the state will force us to take and how little we will have to do to meet the letter of the law,’ but I’m cynical in that way.
The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) is offering low-interest loans for homeowners of single-family, owner-occupied primary residences who want to install PV technology. Through their program, you can get a loan up to $20,000 at 5.001% APR for up to 10 years. There is no maximum income limit. The loan is secured by a mortgage on your property. The maximum system size you can install is 8kW. Contact Stephen Hines, loan officer for the energy program, for more info: 612-335-5851.
No room on your roof? Can’t afford a loan? You can still support solar power by investing in the community solar garden in the works on Lake Street, on the roof of Northern Sun. This project is selling “subscriptions,” allowing any Xcel customer to buy a portion of the solar installation and to reap the financial benefits from the power it produces with a reduction on their monthly energy bill. (Follow the link to learn more.)
The community solar garden concept isn’t new. There are solar gardens in other parts of the country and the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association (Wright County) dedicated its first solar community project on September 9 of this year. Its project was unique in that it combined solar energy with battery storage so stored energy could be deployed when it was needed. (One of the greatest benefits of solar power is that peak production occurs in the middle of the day, which is also the time of highest demand, especially in the hot summer months. One of the greatest drawbacks, of course, is the fact that production decreases long before demand decreases. The battery system will begin to address that problem.)
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