Minnesota Power has filed plans with state regulators to create a community solar garden program, giving its customers the opportunity to go solar without installing their own arrays.
The Duluth, Minn.-based utility hopes to have the program generating power by late 2016.
The utility’s plans include two sites – a 40-kW array in Duluth and a 1-MW array on a site as yet undetermined. The sites would combine to supply power for the program’s subscribers.
“Our program will provide convenient choices for people who want to go solar but who either rent or don’t have a home or business site that is well-suited to generating electricity from the sun,” said Margaret Hodnik, Minnesota Power vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs.
In recent years, Minnesota Power formed the “EnergyForward” initiative with a goal of generating one-third of the company’s electricity from renewable sources, one-third from natural gas and one-third from coal.
The solar garden program not only supports Minnesota Power’s initiative but also helps the company comply with state legislation to produce 1.5 percent of the company’s retail electricity from solar energy by 2020, and 10 percent of that must be from small-scale projects.
Potential commercial subscribers of the program include the University of Minnesota Duluth, which Mindy Granley, director of the Office of Sustainability, says has its own goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Minnesota Power serves 144,000 customers in a 26,000-square-mile area of northeastern Minnesota.