Solar Energy Technology Resources
Solar energy can be used to generate electricity, to provide hot water, and to heat, cool, and light buildings. Believe it or not, Minnesota has the same solar potential as Tallahassee, FL and Houston, TX!
Before you Begin
Energy efficiency is the cleanest energy of all. Before adding solar energy production, limit your need for additional energy by making your farm or business as energy efficient as possible. All of our utilities have incentives for efficiency improvements, so be sure to ask your utility.
Understand what sort of system is right for you. Solar technologies come in differing models. Any one of these technologies might be right for you depending on your energy use and the solar resource available at your site:
- A photovoltaic (PV) system offsets electric energy use
- A solar thermal hot water system reduces demand for fuels needed to heat water
- A solar thermal air heat system lowers demand for fuels needed to heat buildings
Dig Deeper: You can learn more about solar using our guide, Solar for the Home, Farm, and Business, a series of factsheets designed to help you determine if a solar system will work for you.
Consider your sun exposure, budget, and roof life and structure.
- It is important to consider the solar resource at your site. A solar site assessor can help you decide which technologies are the best fit. Assessments will provide insight on the solar resource and potential structural issues. TIP: Using a third party to get an unbiased opinion for your site assessment can be helpful. Clean Energy Project Builder (http://cleanenergyprojectbuilder.org) provides a directory of assessors who can provide this information. You can get a sense for the solar resource at your site using the Minnesota Solar Suitability App (http://mn.gov/solarapp). Solar installers that you consider working with can also provide you with a detailed site assessment.
- If you don’t have a good solar resource on your roof or property and you’d still like to use solar, you should consider subscribing to a community solar garden if one is available to you. Community Solar Gardens are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that produce electricity for participating subscribers. Xcel Energy customers can participate in projects offered by private developers. Members of other utilities in Minnesota can subscribe to a community solar garden if one is offered by the utility. Click here to learn more. If your utility does not offer community solar, they might have a separate green pricing program that allows you to sign up for renewable energy—ask them to learn more.
- It’s important to check in with your local city/county about ordinances that might be in place that would impact your solar project. Some require setbacks or structural assessments, for instance. Your solar installer should have a good handle on this process, but it’s worth knowing in advance.
- Installers should be able to provide a good cost estimate for a project you’re considering, and incentives can make solar more affordable. A federal tax credit can cover up to 30% of the project cost, and utilities often have incentives, too. You should also consider the Made in Minnesota Solar Program if interested in using locally-made proudcts. Check http://dsireusa.org for more.
Compare bids from several solar contractors. You can use the Clean Energy Project Builder online directory (http://cleanenergyprojectbuilder.org), to help you search for solar installers. That website also provides a useful set of questions that you can ask companies (http://cleanenergyprojectbuilder.org/hiring-company). TIP: Most contractors will charge you a fee for coming out to do a site assessment, but then subtract that amount from your contract if you select them. Sometimes you can get site assessments for free or reduced costs in the winter.
Select a contractor, sign a contract, and install your system TIP: It usually takes from two weeks to two months from the time you sign an agreement to the time a project is completed, depending on the type of solar technology and the incentive process. If installing PV, your contractor will facilitate an interconnection agreement with your electric utility that will allow you to track your production and get paid for excess production with net metering.
Stories, events, and more about Solar Energy
Solar Energy Blog Posts
Upcoming Solar Energy Events
Solar Energy Case Studies
Funding & Financing Opportunities
There are various opportunities for funding and financing any clean energy project. CERTs offers a list of funding opportunities currently available in the fields of energy and the environment. Start exploring now! Learn more
Planning your own projects?
The success of any clean energy project depends on how you plan and utilize community, organizational, and financial resources. This is a place for you and your community members to learn from what others have done and strategize about how to accomplish your own clean energy project goals. Learn more.
CERTs Supported Projects
The Clean Energy Project Builder is an online directory that will help you find companies to help you plan, implement, and manage your clean energy projects. It’s also a great place to just learn more about companies serving the solar and wind energy industries in Minnesota. You can even save a portfolio of folks to follow up with! Check it out