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Minnesota could be a solar leader if we move forward with smart policies

On Aug. 5, in front of the rooftop solar array on the Minneapolis Station 19 Fire Department, Rep. Frank Hornstein stated, "Solar energy is free, clean and will help to curb climate change; there is no better investment for our future." Also joining us were Dustin Denison, president of MNSEIA; Peter Teigland, co-founder of Minnesota Community Solar; and Devon Piernot, a member of the U of M Solar Suitability team.

Solar is quickly becoming competitive with options like natural gas, and it creates 91 percent less global warming pollution over its lifetime, according the Environment Minnesota’s new report called "Lighting the Way." Not only does solar clean up our air, it also creates a better economy. In 2013, 864 jobs were created in the solar industry. The Station 19 array consists of panels that were made in Bloomington and Alexandria, Minnesota.

Rep. Keith Ellison sent us a quote saying, "Solar energy is vital to reversing dangerous global warming, and reducing the health impacts of air pollution. We must end the tax breaks and giveaways we provide to the highly profitable fossil fuel industry, and instead invest in growing clean energy technologies like solar.” We need to tell Minnesota’s elected leaders to keep creating policies like the 2013 solar energy standards and value-of-solar tariff.

On Aug. 7, Innovative Power Systems unveiled their first community solar garden in Chisago County. Community gardens give community members the opportunity to invest in solar at a lower cost. The cost of solar dropped by 60 percent from 2011 to 2013. Just think how much better solar could get in the next two years with more research and development and more solar installed into the grid!

— Tatiana Hakanson, Environment Minnesota

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Comments (6)

Every step away from coal...

...is a step toward cleaner air, greater energy independence and more sustainable ways to generate electricity.

Solar's long term potential

Today, solar is still an insignificant less than 1% of our electric energy. Unlike wind, it has the potential of significant improvements in the technology.
But currently, solar is only about 15% efficient as it only responds to a portion of the sun's radiation. In addition, it is useless for the long periods when there is no sun, or the sun is too low to impact the panels. Imagine the recent quiet nights with no wind or sun. All traffic lights go dark, as do hospitals and factories, the green and blue lines stop, etc.

Go To Sleep

Give it a rest, Rolf. You post the same old tired missives with each and every article on solar or wind power. And each and every time it's pointed out where your logic and reasoning is flawed, yet you never acknowledge the additional information nor do you take it into account in your subsequent posts.

You need to hang up your scientist spurs if you can't absorb new data into your saddle bags.

Does the sun in Germany?

Not so much, and yet, they have a comprehensive solar energy policy that encourages installing solar - and guess what, it is so successful that even in cloudy Germany, solar has become more than just an asterisk in the overall energy policy of that country. I guess people could die because the sun stopped shining (its called night), or that the wind stops blowing (except the wind blows at night), but in the real world not so much.

Community Solar

I have to say that I've been looking hard into community solar gardens as I like the idea of locking energy rates in for the next twenty-five years. Coal, gas, and nuclear prices can fluctuate all over the map, but with solar I'll have my rates locked in at the front of the time period.

There are just a few more questions I need to answer before biting the bullet.
1. What is the ROI given the latest ruling on reimbursement rates?
2. What happens to maintenance if the development company gets short on funds in fifteen years?
3. Who pays should the panels get damaged by hail or wind?
4. Should I get one or two panels?
5. Will my wife sign off on the project? (First rule of marriage: always keep the spouse happy!)

I'm meeting with an engineer next week and hope to get some (or all) of those questions answered.

Tiresome, empty refrain against renewable energy

It's interesting that some people feel compelled to constantly lecture others over and over and over about the existence of sunrise, sunset, and the variation in wind speeds, as if not every single human being understands all these.

Renewables like wind and solar play important roles in the fuel mix of our current grid, and the cost of solar in particular has plummeted to the point where it's actually more economical in many markets than all competing sources, without subsidy.

Nationally, wind is already cheaper than coal and nuclear by about 20%, without subsidy. In 2014, wind has produced 19% of Minnesota's electricity. Compare that to 10 years ago when it was just 1.6% and 20 years ago when it was merely 0.09%. Did our electrical system fall apart in those years, as the doomsayers warn? Nope.

Electricity comes from a grid covering a large geographic region, so that individual inconsistencies tend to wash out at dispersed scale. Solar in particular is very valuable in that it provides its peak output at times of peak consumption, a time when wholesale power typically prices many factors higher than in the middle of the night.

Right now, in conjunction with natural gas, they are displacing coal and nuclear at an unprecedented rate. For many people who have a long history when this wasn't the case, these changes can be confusing and very threatening. But as storage technologies evolve, efficiencies continue to increase, and prices continue to drop, renewables are only going to be an ever increasing share of our fuel mix for electricity. Making up silly complaints about them won't change the trajectory of their physics and their economics.

Life moves on in a better direction.