Equitable Solar Access project hits a major milestone

March 2023

We are thrilled to announce that Detroit Lakes Public Utilities has interconnected a new 11 kilowatt (kW) solar array as part of our shared Equitable Solar Access project. 

In 2021, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) pursued funding from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) to advance a low-income community solar garden access project.

Through the existing Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) process and eligibility, this project aims to connect income-eligible households to community solar, thus reducing energy burden. Specifically, the project seeks to develop replicable community solar models that integrate cooperative and municipal utility partners, and their local community action agency and/or energy assistance office, to partners as part of the process. 

Now, two years in, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities has energized the first array for Phase One of our pilot project.

It’s a small array – just 11 kW – located adjacent to a previous community solar array, installed to benefit local income-eligible households, including manufactured home residents, who heat with electric heat.

In addition, through this initial array our team, which include Detroit Lakes Public Utilities, Mahube-Otwa Community Action, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Chan Lab at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and CERTs, will be able to dig into the essential mechanics and processes for tracking production and allocating bill credit that will need to be established, tested, and likely modified, before implementing a larger scale demonstration project.

The aim in installing this array is for the team to work through: 

  • How to utilize and integrate the Energy Assistance process and program with the utility billing process and crediting for Energy Assistance clients.
  • An analysis of the criteria to prioritize Energy Assistance clients such that this model will deliver meaningful energy burden reduction to these households.
  • A bill analysis and documentation of how this approach can consistently benefit participating households, particularly those who heat with electricity and live in manufactured homes (a more difficult to weatherize housing stock).

We look forward to sharing more of our learning as this project moves forward.

The Scaling-Up Solar for Under-Resourced Communities Project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, which supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and domestic benefit of solar technologies on the grid.

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