SolarCity (SCTY), the nation's #1 solar power provider, 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 program is mandated by law and is expected to be the largest in the nation when completed.
According to GTM Research and SEIA's Q1 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, only 66MW(DC) of community solar projects are operating in the United States today. SolarCity's new community solar program will develop a series of up to one-hundred 1MW(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 system.
"In Minnesota, anyone with an Xcel account can access the Solar Community Garden program, whether or not their home or school is optimal for solar or they live in a rental unit, condominium or low-income housing complex," said Dean Leischow, CEO of Sunrise Energy Ventures. "We chose SolarCity as a partner because of its solid track record of residential service and its commitment to help Minnesota rate payers utilize clean power at a savings."
"The State of Minnesota and its Public Utilities Commission have made a significant contribution to the proliferation of solar power by passing solar garden legislation," said Jesse Jones, SolarCity's vice president of development and acquisitions. "They've also made it possible for subscribers to have an involvement with locally-generated clean power, rather than a credit for or certificate representing solar kilowatts generated far, far away."
SolarCity, the nation's leading residential solar power provider, and Sunrise Energy Ventures are the first to offer a solar community garden program to Minnesota renters or homeowners, schools, municipalities, hospitals and other institutions. SolarCity will begin offering Community Solar subscriptions to residential ratepayers at the end of 2015.