08-29 01 austin solar jw .jpg

The new solar array on the Austin High School annex, and also visible from the west side of school, was the topic of a presss conference and media day Friday at the school. It was completed last week and is about to be connected to the grid.

As we leave winter and enter into construction season, local farmers and residential community members alike are noticing a flurry of solar panels dotting the landscape. Clean energy is taking root in the state, and the commonplace solar arrays bring frequently asked questions: does solar work here? Will it help cut costs? Will it raise my property taxes? Are there still incentives to help make it affordable? Long story short, solar energy checks all the right boxes to make it worth considering.

Minnesota is an excellent state for solar energy, despite seasonal bouts of snow and shade. If there’s a good south-facing roof or ground space for it, solar energy is the least expensive and safest energy source that can be purchased in the state. In the last decade alone, costs of the equipment have plummeted by three-quarters as manufacturing has scaled up effectively. Most homeowners with a decent solar site can expect to cut their long-term utility bills down to one-third or more of their current costs, though a much better return is possible if the variables line up right. Modern attachments and racking protect buildings from wind damage or leakage, and the lack of moving parts in a solar energy system keeps upkeep costs low and return on investment reliable. Solar panels easily handle local inclement weather, surviving the worst of Minnesota hail, snow and storms with seldom a scratch. Given its hardiness and resilience, it’s understandable why solar power is growing in popularity at every level of development in Minnesota, from utility-grade to small-scale private owner.

Minnesota is a great state for solar investment and is rated within the top 15 states in the nation for the growing solar energy market. The sun profile of the state is such that we annually get more sun than Germany, one of the largest renewable energy-dominated nations in the world. With smart long-term vision for the future, our state has chosen to protect private solar producers with a law known as equivalency net metering. This allows residents to buy and sell energy with their local utility at an equal rate. This makes adoption here safe, as it forces utilities to play ball fairly. Minnesota has the added perk of renewable energy projects being tax-free, and renewable energy systems don’t hike up annual property taxes, nor do folks have to pay for sales tax on the equipment. In the local Midwest, it’s no stretch to say that we’ve the friendliest state around for solar energy development.

The solar energy market has grown up, which means costs are down and early adopter incentives are fading. While this is a positive development for the overall market, it’s a warning shot for some folks looking to scoop up the last of those tax incentives and rebates. With growing local and statewide dedication towards clean energy goals, it’s becoming clear that solar has a permanent place in Minnesota energy policy and preferences. Whatever happens with Minnesota’s long-term energy plan, solar energy may be one of the better bets on the table.

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