Simple Steps to Solar
Power from the Sun
- Use energy wisely. Before adding solar energy production, limit your need for additional energy by making your building is as energy efficient as possible. All of our utilities have incentives for efficiency improvements, so be sure to ask your utility. Get an energy assessment to find opportunities and check out the Home Energy Guide from the Minnesota Department of Commerce for tips.
- Get educated. Solar technologies come in three categories: (1) A photovoltaic (PV) system offsets electric energy use and is the most common. (2) A solar thermal hot water system reduces demand for fuels needed to heat water. (3) A solar thermal air heat system lowers demand for fuels needed to heat buildings. Any one of these technologies might be right for you depending on your energy use and the solar resource available at your site.
- Find out if you have a sunny site. You can get a sense for the solar resource at your site using the Minnesota Solar Suitability App. Our Clean Energy Project Builder directory provides solar installers that you can consider working with who should start by providing you with a detailed site assessment. If you don't have a good site, you might consider buying renewable energy from your utility or subscribing to a community solar garden.
- Know local rules. 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.
- Figure out your budget. 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 some utilities offer rebates, too. USDA REAP provides grants for up to 25% and loans for up to 75% of the cost for farms and small businesses. Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing could also be a good fit for paying for non-residential projects.
- Get bids. We recommend that you compare bids from several solar contractors. You can use the Clean Energy Project Builder directory, to help you search for solar installers. We also provide a useful set of questions that you can ask companies.
- Install solar. Select a company, sign a contract, and install your system. 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.
- Tell your story. You could be inspiration for others! Tell your neighbors, family, friends, colleagues, and local media outlets about your experience so they know how easy and rewarding it is to go solar. You might be surprised how influential you are!
Referenced Tools & Guides
Guide to Solar PV
Solar Electricity for the Home, Farm, and Business helps you determine if a solar electric system will work for you.
Building & Site Assessment
Conservation & Efficiency
Electricity Use Worksheet