Solar power provider SolarCity and Minnetonka-based solar developer Sunrise Energy Ventures have partnered to create a new community solar program offering that allows renters, schools, municipalities and other current Xcel Energy customers to purchase renewable energy without installing solar panels on their properties. Minnesota's new community solar power program is mandated by law.
According to GTM Research and SEIA's Q1 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, only 66 MW(DC) of community solar power projects are operating in the United States today. SolarCity's new community solar program will develop a series of up to one-hundred 1 MW(AC) community solar installations, or "gardens," in Wright and Sherburne counties.
SolarCity will then invite renters, low-income housing residents, schools, and others in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to enter subscriber agreements to purchase the solar power the gardens produce at a rate of 13 cents per kWh. For up to 25 years, Xcel Energy will credit the subscribers at a rate of 14.7 kWh for each kWh of electricity that is purchased from SolarCity through a solar garden subscriber agreement. The anticipated 11.5 percent savings will be immediate for subscribers, who will remain Xcel Energy customers.
SolarCity will develop, operate and own the gardens and expects to hire local installation and operations personnel to build the projects. The company plans to reserve the majority of the gardens' residential allocations in order to give some of the 600,000 apartment renters in Minnesota access to affordable solar power. Community solar can also appeal to homeowners who have heavily shaded or north-facing roofs or those who do not want to make an up-front financial investment in a rooftop solar system.
SolarCity will begin offering Community Solar subscriptions to residential ratepayers at the end of 2015.