NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL REPORTING, JUNE 24: WHY COMMUNITY SOLAR IS EXPLODING IN MINNESOTA

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Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • Weekend Video: Good News On Climate – The Public Is Starting To Get It
  • Weekend Video: The Libertarian Failure On Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: New Energy Is Doable – And Is Being Done
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-World Gets A Step Closer To Enforceable Climate Laws
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-New Energy Ready To Power The World Future
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Sahara Sun Could Power The World
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-World’s Biggest Offshore Wind Turbines Building Off UK Coast
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, September 22:

  • TTTA Thursday-Why Having Babies Could Be The Climate Change Answer
  • TTTA Thursday-Big Texas Wind Backed By Amazon
  • TTTA Thursday-Big Sun Sparkles In Nevada
  • TTTA Thursday-EV Racing Coming To The Streets Of Brooklyn
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: In The Wake Of The Massive Aliso Canyon Leak
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Rise Of Distributed Energy Resources Goes On
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Community Solar Matures And Evolves
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • TODAY’S STUDY: A Snapshot Of U.S. Solar Right Now
  • QUICK NEWS, September 20: Survey Shows People Oppose Fossil Fuels; Solar Bargain Hits World Record; China In Record Wind Build Rate
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: A Utility Puts Out Its Vision Of New Energy On A New Grid
  • QUICK NEWS, September 19: People Will Pay To Fight Climate Change; Wind To Keep Getting Cheaper; Tesla Batteries To Ease Aliso Cyn-Caused Power Shortfalls
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, September 26:

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Future Of Offshore Wind Foreseen
  • QUICK NEWS, September 26: The Sonification Of Climate Change; Wind Is Red, White, And Green; The New Hybrid Solar-Storage Concept Module

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    ORIGINAL REPORTING, JUNE 24: WHY COMMUNITY SOLAR IS EXPLODING IN MINNESOTA

    [NEWENERGYNEWS is on the road today. Regular features will return next week.] Why community solar is exploding in Minnesota; Mortenson-SunShare partnership leads the charge with 100-plus MW solar pipeline

    Herman K. Trabish, February 5, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    Minnesota had 14 MW of solar installed at the end of 2014.

    Remarkably, it now has over 400 MW in its community solar queue today.

    In December, Xcel Energy launched its Solar*Rewards Community for Minnesota. Based on a successful program in Colorado, Xcel Minnesota customers will be able to pay for solar energy-generated electricity from third-party developed central station arrays that is sent to the grid and get credit on their electricity bills for it.

    “I am blown away by the response to the community solar program,” said John Farrell who, as one of the architects of Minnesota’s solar law, helped put the policy framework for this boom in place. “It is going to explode in 2015, driven by the many, many people getting into the game who previously would not have thought about solar, businesses, individuals, cities.”

    Community solar is “a program through which individual members of a community have the opportunity to ‘buy in’ to a nearby solar installation…[and] receive a proportional share of the financial or energy output of the system,” according to Expanding Solar Access Through Utility-led Community Solar from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). “Community solar programs may be offered by electric utilities or through third-parties or community groups.”

    “Only 22% to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system,” according to the 2010 Guide to Community Shared Solar from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Community solar options expand access to solar power for renters, those with shaded roofs, and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons.”

    But, Farrell pointed out, “some utilities are looking at community solar as a way to poach people away from net metering and change the economics in their favor.”

    “Larger solar developments – as compared to putting solar panels on individual roof-tops – usually cost less to install, which can make solar power more affordable and convenient,” said Xcel Energy VP Chris Clark in announcing the program.

    Minnesota’s Community solar gardens bill, passed in 2013, was intentionally designed with no cap on capacity to prevent utilities from limiting distributed solar.

    “We made sure community solar is value added in Minnesota,” Farrell explained. “It expands the opportunity for people to participate in solar but also allows traditional net metered distributed solar to continue to grow.”

    Community solar business models

    SunShare, the second biggest U.S. community solar developer, is moving aggressively to take advantage of the Minnesota opportunity.

    “In 2014, our total capital activities exceeded $50 million, including investments from NRG Renew and others, and we expect to grow substantially in 2015 and 2016,” explained CEO David Amster-Olzewski.

    Clean Energy Collective (CEC) is the leading private sector community solar developer, with 37 megawatts of built capacity in 51 projects involving 19 separate utilities across 8 states. It just won what appears to be major backing from First Solar, one of the world’s biggest solar developers. CEC is currently focusing the bulk of its activity in Massachusetts.

    CEC has succeeded using an up-front payment for panels business model. It always works with an active utility partner, which handles the billing.

    SunShare’s automated system informs the utility of its array’s output and the percent of that output contracted for by each subscriber, Amster-Olszewski explained. Each subscriber gets a bill from the utility detailing usage, credits earned for the solar array’s output, and the various other utility charges.

    Under Minnesota’s law, subscribers earn an applicable retail rate (residential: $0.12 per kWh, small commercial: $0.11 per kWh, large commercial: $0.09-plus per kWh) plus the $0.02 per kWh renewable energy credit fee from Xcel. That will make the remuneration for community solar comparable to the remuneration earned by net metered customers, Amster-Olszewski said.

    Each subscriber also gets a bill from SunShare, based on a fixed 20-year per-kilowatt-hour contract rate and the month’s electricity usage, he explained. The rate is at or under the utility rate, with a 2% to 3% inflation escalator. It protects subscribers from the EIA-estimated 4% to 5% national average annual power price increase.

    With its new SolarPerks model in Massachusetts, CEC is introducing a plan in which subscribers pay nothing upfront, contract with CEC for kilowatt-hours, are credited by the utility for their share of the array’s output, and pay 95% of that credit to CEC for owning and maintaining the array.

    “The subscriber automatically gets a 5% reduction with no upfront cost,” a CEC spokesperson explained. “But as electricity goes up, the subscriber will never be victim to an increasing electricity bill.”

    The SunShare-Mortenson deal

    To anchor its Minnesota growth, SunShare formed a strategic partnership with Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction, one of the biggest U.S. energy project and renewables builders.

    “We are always looking for the next market, the new market, and particularly we are looking for markets that will be strong in 2017 and beyond,” explained Mortenson Vice President and General Manager Trent Mostaert. “We saw community solar get started in Colorado and saw SunShare play a leading role. When they came to Minnesota, we decided to jump on board.”

    In 2017, Mostaert noted, the federal investment tax credit (ITC) drops from 30% to zero for residential solar but will be 10% for commercial arrays. “Yet it is selling power to subscribers at close to the retail rate instead of trying to sell into the wholesale market,” he explained.

    Mortenson will serve as Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor on SunShare’s projects, Mostaert said. Both companies’ representatives acknowledged the builder is also acting as an informal bridge for SunShare to the Minnesota market.

    Over 100 MWs of SunShare’s Minnesota pipeline has already won preliminary approval from Xcel, according to Amster-Olszewski. “That represents $250 million in projects to be developed mostly in 2015 but also in 2016, he said. “We are working with capital partners and expect to have announcements in the next 3 months.”

    Interconnection issues on the horizon?

    Interconnections could be a concern amid the boom, Mostaert said. “If we had more visibility into Xcel’s transmission capacity, it would make it a lot easier to plan our projects.”

    With more data and information about the capacity of feeder lines earlier in the process, he explained, Mortenson and SunShare could identify land to target for development. Instead, they are “now locating at substations and major transmission lines and hoping there is capacity on those lines.”

    Where poor planning allows feeder lines to become overloaded, as in Hawaii,development has become impeded and more costly. That could be happening now in Minnesota. Once the interconnection application is filed and the $1 million per 10 MW fee is paid, Xcel provides feeder capacity information, Mostaert said. But that could mean a developer discovers the feeder is overloaded after committing land and significant money.

    Both Xcel and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission are reportedly working on resolving the interconnection issues, Mostaert said.

    "Even if only half the solar in the queue is built, that is still ten times more solar that was installed in this state before this year and it will only grow from there because electricity prices keep going up,” Farrell said. “The exploding growth will bring Xcel back to the commission with some reason it has to be slowed, capped, changed, or something, to keep their control of the grid. Community solar is going to call attention to that.”

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