hen it comes to renewable energy, solar power is one of the most promising options. While sunny states like California and Texas might seem like the obvious places to go solar, there are many other regions across the United States with untapped solar potential. Surprisingly, Minnesota, a state often associated with cold and snowy winters, is one such place. Many homeowners may not realize that Minnesota actually gets enough sunshine to make photovoltaic (PV) panels viable.
This article will examine the benefits of solar power in Minnesota, explore the various incentives available for homeowners, and highlight some of the top solar installers in the state.
Solar MN: achievements and challenges in the adoption
Minnesota's electricity system has heavily relied on fossil fuels for over a century, but recent concerns over pollution and climate change, coupled with rising utility costs, have prompted the state to take aggressive steps towards renewable energy. As a result, the proportion of electricity generated by coal-fired power plants has plummeted from 53% in 2011 to 27% in 2021, with renewable sources now dominating the energy mix, accounting for 29% of Minnesota's total in-state electricity generation.
Minnesota is making a conscious effort to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by incentivizing the adoption of renewable energy sources through effective legislation and policies. The state has established impressive Renewable Portfolio Standards, which not only mandate a specific amount of renewable power generation but also set a deadline for compliance. By 2025, Minnesota requires utilities to generate a quarter of their energy from renewable sources.
To avoid penalties from the state, utility companies are offering enticing rebates and incentives to homeowners who switch to renewable energy, thereby aiding the state in achieving its renewable energy goals.
Although solar energy is becoming increasingly popular in Minnesota, one major obstacle remains: the state's relatively low electricity rates. Compared to the national average price of 14.46 cents per kilowatt hour, Minnesota's average residential electric rate of 13.81 cents is quite affordable. In fact, the state is ranked as the 32nd lowest-priced state in the US for electricity.
However, despite efforts to curb it, the cost of electricity in Minnesota keeps climbing up. EIA figures reveal that the rates have skyrocketed by 28% over the past decade, shooting from 8.65 cents/kWh in 2011 to 11.08 cents/kWh in 2021. On the other hand, solar prices have taken a 53% dip during the same period and are expected to keep dropping. This trend suggests that solar energy will likely become more attractive to homeowners over the next few years.
Benefits of switching to solar power in Minnesota
Switching to solar power can provide numerous benefits, both for individual Minnesotans and for the community as a whole. This section will explore some of the key advantages of installing PV panels, from cost savings to environmental benefits and beyond.
Lower energy bills
Although Minnesota's electricity rates are below the national average, many homeowners still struggle to keep up with their bills. According to a recent report by Lending Tree, 25 percent of Minnesota households have had to cut back on essential expenses like medication or food to pay their energy bills.
As the cost of traditional energy sources continues to rise, solar energy provides a more affordable alternative. By generating your electricity, you can save on your monthly utility bills, which can help you recoup your PV panel investment over time.
Increased property value
Opting for solar panels is a wise move that not only lowers your energy bills but also enhances the value of your home over the long haul. Recent studies indicate that properties equipped solar PV systems are more valuable than those without. By adding PV modules to your home, you'll make it more attractive to potential buyers who are increasingly focused on energy efficiency and eco-friendliness when shopping for a new place to call home.
Preservation of the environment
Going solar is a great way to help the environment. Solar energy is a sustainable and clean source that doesn't emit harmful pollutants like fossil fuels. The carbon footprint of a typical photovoltaic system ranges from 14-73 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is significantly lower than burning oil which releases an average of 742g of CO2e per kWh. By transitioning to solar power, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint and do your part to combat climate change.
Photovoltaic systems provide a path to energy autonomy. By producing their own electricity through PV panels, homeowners can minimize their reliance on the national power grid, thereby avoiding power outages and fluctuations in energy prices. Additionally, energy independence provides a sense of control and security as homeowners have complete control over their energy production and consumption.
Creation of job opportunities
As more Minnesota homes and businesses install PV panels, there is a growing demand for skilled professionals in the industry, including installers, engineers, and technicians. These jobs not only provide employment opportunities but also contribute to the growth of a green economy in the state, making solar adoption a win-win for both the environment and the economy.
Solar incentives available for Minnesota residents
Several states have introduced lucrative incentives to promote the use of solar technology, and Minnesota is no different. The Land of 10,000 Lakes has a host of attractive offers that help residents embrace photovoltaics with ease. These incentives can help minimize the installation expenses of PV panels, making it a financially viable option for both households and companies to adopt green energy. Let’s delve into the various solar MN incentives available to locals and explore how they can leverage these programs to save cash and reduce their carbon footprint.
Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
If you're a Minnesotan who wishes to make the switch, the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a great place to start. This incentive is available to anyone who installs a PV panel system on their property and allows you to deduct up to 30% of the installation cost from your federal taxes. This means you can save thousands of dollars on your investment, making it a more affordable option for homeowners.
However, it's important to note that the ITC is set to expire by 2035, which makes now a great time to take advantage of this incentive and invest in clean energy for your home.
Solar energy sales tax exemption
Solar panel buyers in Minnesota can benefit from an important incentive that allows them to save on sales tax. When you purchase the panels for your home, you are not required to pay any sales tax, which can be substantial since the state sales tax rate is almost 7 percent. This makes it an essential benefit for Minnesota residents who want to invest in clean energy.
Wind And Solar Electric (PV) Systems Exemption
Minnesota residents have access to another strong incentive: the Wind and Solar Electric (PV) Systems Exemption. Under this exemption, wind facilities and PV devices are exempt from property taxes. This means that the value of your solar system won't be factored into your property tax assessment, resulting in estimated annual savings of approximately $245, based on the statewide property tax increase rate of 1.05%.
Minnesota homeowners can benefit from one of the most remarkable incentives out there: net metering. With this policy, PV panel owners can earn credits for the electricity they contribute to the electric grid. The state's net metering law mandates that all utilities provide this benefit for residential photovoltaic systems less than 40 kW. This limit should cover almost all home setups, which are usually around 6 kW for a typical single-family home.
Utility solar rebates
Minnesota's robust Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) translates into several fantastic utility programs and rebates tailored towards solar enthusiasts.
One such program is provided by Xcel Energy, which offers homeowners an annual payment based on their photovoltaic system's energy output. Xcel compensates them at a rate of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour of solar energy production for up to a period of 10 years.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Power has its own rebate program, which is pegged to a PV system’s first-year estimated production and rewards solar adopters with $0.083 per kWh.
How much does it cost for Minnesotans to go solar?
If you're considering installing a photovoltaic system, you might be wondering about the expenses involved. The current average cost of solar panels stands at $3.43/W. If you're planning to install a PV panel system of 6 kilowatts, the price range would be between $17,493 and $23,666, with the average gross price of solar installation at $20,580. However, note that these figures don't account for potential savings from ITC and state or local incentives, which can potentially shave off thousands from your total cost.
Best Minnesota solar installers
Installing a PV panel system is not a task that can be taken lightly, and choosing the right installer can make all the difference. Below, we will highlight some of Minnesota's best companies and provide information on their services to help you make an informed decision when choosing an installer.
All Energy Solar
All Energy Solar is a reputable company that has been operating for over a decade. They are a full-service installer, which means they offer a variety of products, such as panels, battery storage, electric vehicle storage, and system monitoring services.
Although their systems may be pricier than those of other companies, their exceptional reputation and customer service make the extra expense worthwhile. All Energy Solar provides a 25-30 year performance and equipment warranty that varies depending on the manufacturer's warranty for parts from different brands. Additionally, the company has an extensive referral program that rewards customers for choosing their PV solutions.
All Energy Solar customers can choose from top-of-the-line equipment from major solar brands, such as REC, LG, Tesla, Enphase, and SolarEdge.
MN Solar and More, LLC
MN Solar and More, LLC is a reputable company that has gained popularity despite being relatively new. The installer prides itself on delivering outstanding customer service and a wide range of PV equipment options from renowned brands. While the company works exclusively in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, it provides a more personal feel than you'll get from a national company.
MN Solar manages your entire project in-house, including installation, and offers a diverse range of services, such as solar panels, battery storage, EV chargers, and general electrical work. The company carries solar equipment from top brands such as Canadian Solar, Silfab, Jinko Solar, and LG.
Furthermore, MN Solar offers more affordable options compared to other solar companies operating in Minnesota. However, the company's website lacks detailed information regarding its warranties, financing partners, and loan terms.
Apadana Solar Technologies
Apadana Solar is a young company that has established itself as a leading provider of solar engineering, procurement, and construction services in New Hope, Minnesota. Despite being a small team, the company has earned a reputation for high-quality services and products, especially among residential and commercial small businesses. While the prices are higher than competitors, the company's focus on quality and sophistication distinguishes it within the market.
One of the company's strengths is its educational sales approach, where customers can learn about the benefits of solar energy and how the systems work. The company also offers custom system designs to meet the specific needs of its clients. However, the company's website has limited information, which could be a drawback for potential customers seeking more details.
Live Wire Solar & Electric
Live Wire Solar & Electric is a company that provides a comprehensive range of services and products, such as PV panel installation, battery storage, EV charging, and access to community solar. The company operates out of Blaine, Minnesota, and caters to most of the state, including the Minneapolis metro area and outstate regions. Live Wire stands out for its impressive selection of photovoltaic equipment featuring the industry's leading brands.
While Live Wire has faced criticism for its customer service, it remains popular for its competitive and budget-friendly installations, priced below the state average. Additionally, Live Wire handles all installations internally, streamlining the process and ensuring a seamless switch to solar power.
Blue Raven Solar
Blue Raven Solar is a widely recognized company that operates within Minnesota and throughout the country. It offers affordable pricing and excellent customer support, which is a rarity among installers of its size. One of the company's standout features is its in-house financing program, BluePower Plus+, which is regarded as the best among competitors. Additionally, they have an extremely generous referral program that rewards customers for referrals.
However, Blue Raven keeps its prices down by offering a limited number of services from a select few brands, so it's not the best choice for people seeking niche services. The company's equipment selection is limited to Silfab, Q Cells, and Trina, which are not as efficient as the equipment offered by brands like Tesla or SunPower. Moreover, Blue Raven provides good but not great warranties, covering equipment for 25 years but only offering 10 years of workmanship coverage, which is slightly below the industry standard.
Winona Renewable Energy
Winona Renewable Energy is a Minnesota-based company that has been providing residential solar services since 2010. The company offers almost all the services required for PV installation except for the installation itself, which is subcontracted to licensed electricians. Despite this arrangement, the company has earned excellent customer reviews, offers competitive prices, and has received an excellent BBB rating, making it an attractive option for anyone who prefers a local company.
Although Winona Renewable Energy does not publicly disclose the brands it uses or financing options, the company works with customers to personalize their solar systems according to their specific requirements. While the company's prices are reasonable, they may not be the most cost-effective option available. To give customers peace of mind, Winona Renewable Energy offers a 25-year equipment warranty and a 5-year workmanship warranty.
Conclusion: is Minnesota a good place for going solar?
To sum up, although Minnesota might not be the first place that comes to mind for solar power, it actually has a lot of unused potential. The state's commitment to reducing its dependence on fossil fuels has created a rising demand for renewable energy, and there are plenty of incentives to make it easier for homeowners to adopt clean energy.
Making the switch can lead to numerous advantages, including lower energy bills, increased property value, environmental protection, and energy independence. As solar prices continue to decrease and incentives are accessible, now might be the perfect opportunity for Minnesota residents to contemplate solar.