Category Archives: Community Solar

Community Solar Gardens: The Basics

Solar energy isn’t just for rooftops anymore. With community solar, tenants and building owners now have access to solar energy, regardless of their roof’s characteristics or available capital. It’s more than monthly savings on electricity – it’s a leap toward increased renewable energy access, economic benefit to rural communities, and a reduced carbon footprint.

 

How Does Community Solar Work?

Community Solar gardens are off-site solar arrays that produce energy sent to the electric grid. They’re similar to power plants, producing energy away from the end-user but are typically less than 5 MW in electrical capacity. (Enough energy to power roughly 542 homes per year.)


Community Solar Gardens (CSG’s) are often found in rural areas on parcels of leased land that are not currently being used for agriculture. These locations are optimal for solar energy production, and the duration of the lease allows the land to naturally replenish nutrients for future crops. During installation a pollinator-friendly seed mix is planted in order to provide a habitat for native bees, butterflies and other wildlife. CSGs can be completed with little impact on current operations and require little to no maintenance. When the lease is up, the equipment is removed and the land is returned to the owner unharmed.

 

What are the Benefits of Community Solar?

  • The need for building ownership, ideal roof conditions, and approval from local agencies is eliminated for people that want solar energy. 
  • More people have access to the benefits of renewable energy. 
  • landowners can diversify their income streams without investing any overhead.
  • Local economies benefit from the additional income generated from, and saved by, the leasing and subscription to CSG’s.

 

How do I Get Started?

Many utility companies have programs available, allowing you to subscribe to a CSG. A community solar subscription allows you to use a portion of the energy produced, with savings applied as credits to your monthly bill. If you’re a landowner and you think your parcel might be a good location for a solar site, you can contact a solar developer. 


Whether you’re interested in hosting a CSG or looking for a subscription plan that fits your needs, Impact Power Solutions is here to assist your renewable energy transition. 

 

Impact Power Solutions Ranked top 10 Solar Developer in the US

What is the Top Solar Contractor’s List?

Curated by Solar Power World, the Top Solar Contractors list is made to showcase the work of solar installers and developers of all sizes. The list is determined by the number of kilowatts installed by a solar energy company in the previous year, divided into categories by the type of service the top solar contractor provides, regions, and states.

From the Curators of the Top Solar Contractor’s List

“The Solar Power World team is so pleased to highlight more than 400 companies on the 2020 Top Solar Contractors list, especially during this unprecedented time,” said Kelsey Misbrener, senior editor of Solar Power World. “All contractors featured on the 2020 list reported strong 2019 installation numbers and are continuing to stand tall this year.”

Top Solar Contractors Continue To Strive For Recovery

Despite COVID-19 being the immediate issue for the world to address, reducing carbon emissions to aid in climate change remains a top priority that affects all of us. 


The top solar contractors that made the list, the people we work with, and the communities we live in are all facing obstacles that have never been seen before. Q1 showed the largest amount of solar capacity ever installed in the United States, adding 3.6 GW of solar capacity. The force of these challenges emerged in Q2, with forecasts of 25% and 38% decreases in year to year volumes in 2020. 


Regardless of the turbulence faced in these uncertain times, solar energy is still effective in combating greenhouse gas emissions as an alternative to fossil fuels, and will continue to aid in efforts for economic recovery

Our Take On Being A Top Solar Contractor

We’re thrilled to announce that we are the #1 solar developer in the Midwest, among the top 10 commercial solar developers in the US, and grateful to be a part of Solar Power World’s Top Solar Contractors list for the 8th consecutive year.

 

In the 29 years since our founding, we have never faced challenges like the ones we see today. We extend our deepest thanks to our employees, clients, and community for making the installation of 29,784 kilowatts of solar capacity possible, and for the positive impact we’ve made on the environment together. 

2020 Solar Trends: Xcel Solar Rewards Program

Xcel’s Solar*Rewards® program provides a financial incentive for residents, businesses and public entities to install solar power. Annual payments are made to the owner of the solar system in exchange for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) produced by solar.  This is known as a performance-based incentive or PBI.


Xcel customers also qualify for Net Metering up to 1 megawatt AC (or enough power for roughly 200 homes).  If you generate more than you need, the extra energy is added to the grid, and any excess energy will be credited to your bill. 

Additionally, there’s a specific sub-program for under-resourced communities and income-qualified multi-family.


It is important to note that small commercial incentives levels are decreasing.


Also, large projects qualify for a separate bill-credit mechanism called capacity credit program or ELPC which was strengthened in 2019.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Minneapolis Green Cost Share Program

The City of Minneapolis is offering an incentive to install solar: the Green Cost Share Program. Qualifying projects will be compensated based on the solar array’s projected first year kilowatt hour production, up to $50,000.  Funding ranges from $.20 to $.40.


Priority will be given to buildings in designated Green Zones and to buildings that are participating in the 4D Affordable Housing Program.


Worth noting, projects receiving funding will require prevailing wage.

 

2020 Solar Trends: Corporate Solar

Major corporations are really stepping up and making a commitment to sustainability and clean energy! Industry leaders like Target, Walmart, IKEA, and Cargil have decided to leverage solar to benefit their business and the environment. 

 

Additionally, real estate investment trusts are also getting in the mix. Earlier this year, we announced two new projects with STAG where we are leasing their roofs for community solar projects!

 

2020 Solar Trends: National Price Trends

Good news, from a high level view, is that there’s continued downward pressure on system pricing. There are, however, several factors that are working against this trend and increasing cost.


Tariffs are a major factor. In 2018, the US international trade commission levied an import tariff on solar products, which phases down over four years.  This has increased panel prices compared to the rest of the world by as much as 60%.

 

 

2020 Solar Trends: Community Solar for Breweries

We all love craft breweries! The popularity of local microbreweries is exploding in the United States, but how can they maximize their profits and  minimize their operating expenses? Well, community solar is a great opportunity to do just that.

Former CEO of Insight Brewing Co., and now solar sales representative, Ilan Klages-Mundt is joining Eric Pasi to discuss how subscribing to community solar benefited his business.

Interested in learning how a community solar subscription could save your business thousands in operating costs? Give us a call: 651-789-5305!

 

 

 

2020 Solar Trends: MN Community Solar Updates

In 2020, Minnesota Community Solar financing is becoming one of the most popular financing mechanisms for commercial solar projects. The community solar program allows residents, businesses, and public entities to participate in solar that’s not located on their property.

Each year in September Xcel proposes a bill credit rate for the following year.  This is based on a set of attributes like avoided costs and environmental impacts to develop a state-approved formula called the Value of Solar.

This rate has fallen slightly each year since 2017 to about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour levelized.

Xcel says its value of solar rate is on track to more than double to about 25 cents per kWh for projects coming online in 2020 — a result that is “unreasonable, unrepresentative, and clearly falls outside of the public interest,” according to the utility.

A compromise is currently being hashed out at the public utilities commission with a likely rate around $.12 per kilowatt hour levelized.

This will allow for continued development, although capacity on the grid is increasingly hard to come by.

 

The Xcel Energy Community Solar Garden Program: What has it Accomplished in Minnesota

 

Written By Ralph Jacobson

IPS has been busy developing solar arrays through the Xcel Community Solar Garden (CSG) program since 2014. This year the CSG program is under fire from one house of the Legislature and getting a boost from the other house. Whether you are a skeptic, a subscriber, or just wonder what all the fuss is about, now is a good time to step back for a minute and consider some of the many ways that the program has benefited not only Xcel Energy customers, but the entire population of Minnesota. I have thought of eight; how many can you think of?

 

1. Minnesota now has a more sophisticated developer and utility partnership. 

The solar market here had been capped at a tiny size of 40 kilowatts since net-metering was enacted in 1980; this supported only a small group of solar installers competing for residential and small commercial business. The CSG program has helped to move the solar market out of the “early adopter phase” of sky-high cost, into the “early mainstream phase” where costs are still too high for utilities but are coming down fast. Our state’s utilities now have local partners who have the depth of experience and resources to continue wrestling with costs and risk factors until these are acceptable for utilities to more directly engage with solar.

 

2. The Minnesota PUC has successfully deployed a joint planning model embodied in the CSG working group, which transfers much of the workload to Xcel and the developers, while maintaining robust oversight.

The sheer volume of proceedings involving solar has created a tremendous increase in the workload of the state regulators. This working group has placed much of the responsibility on the solar power industry itself, utility and non-utility, to work together to find agreeable solutions. Although the issues are being hotly debated now, the groundwork has been laid here for a smoother Integrated Distribution Planning process, involving more players.

 

3. We Needed to Try the Value of Solar (VOS) Tariff.

The CSG program has provided a testbed for the Value of Solar (VOS) concept. After much collective effort and brain power went into developing the method for calculating each line item in the tariff template, no utility stepped forward to try it out. Solar developers thought it would benefit them by raising the price which utilities pay for solar; utilities thought they would see the price fall over time. The VOS started out as a rational approach to calculate the avoided costs for utilities, but because it is now in actual use for the CSG market, we will now find out whether the VOS really does reduce the level of contention on the price which the utility pays for solar power.     

 

4. Minnesota is no longer flyover country for capital, when it comes to solar. Many providers came from different corners of the capital market to check out the CSG model, and some stayed to play.

This was the first opportunity for many in the local solar industry to participate in third-party financing deals. Broader use of third-party financing has stimulated more possibilities for solar deployment, due to more interest from capital providers and more experienced developers and installers. One way to look at it: Minnesota is getting its share of the benefit from Federal Investment Tax Credits. 

 

5. Solar Deployment Has Greatly Accelerated With CSGs.

In the five years from when the CSG law was signed in 2013, through the end of 2018, PV capacity installed in Minnesota went from 17 megawatts to over 1000 megawatts. That’s an increase of 60X!! Over half of that increase is from solar arrays under the Xcel CSG program,  enough to power 50,000 homes.

 

6. Farm income is stabilized with CSGs: farmers who lease part of their land out to a CSG are finding, like their counterparts who lease out land for wind farms, that this builds some stability into their economics.

Typically, these 25-year contracts provide the farmer around $1,000 per acre per year; a CSG requires about 5 acres for deployment of a megawatt of solar modules. Think of it this way: the farmer is getting paid for taking some of their land out of heavy corn and soybean rotation, and to put that land into a soil improvement program which produces electric power at the same time.

 

7. CSGs are associated with soil improvement, and agronomists are beginning to study the positive impact of ground-mounted solar on soils.

Solar developers have largely adopted the planting of soil-building grasses and legumes as the standard soil treatment under a solar array. Fresh Energy’s Pollinator Pledge program has helped build public awareness and acceptance of ground-mounted solar as an enhancement of Minnesota agriculture, and not a distraction.

 

8. CSGs have helped Increase public acceptance of solar, because now there are a LOT more solar arrays deployed around rural Minnesota.  Five years ago, most people (including myself), considered larger ground-mounted solar arrays to be an unnatural imposition upon the agricultural landscape we were accustomed to. Many people live near, work near, or drive by a CSG regularly, and all of us can see for ourselves that a one-megawatt solar array has less visual impact than an ethanol plant, or other large agricultural installations.

Illinois Communities Preparing for Solar

By Amit Shukla

Illinois’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) will be the premier legislation to drive renewable energy and economic development in the state of Illinois. Many communities, townships, school districts, colleges, and building owners are gearing up for this legislation.

Along with energy efficiency improvements, this legislation calls for 1.3 GW of wind and 3 GW of solar by 2030. About 1500 MW of solar needs to be built by 2021 and of this approximately 670 MW is distributed generation. The Illinois Power Agency has issued the Renewable Energy Procurement Plan.

The intent of this blog post is to summarize the new “Adjustable Block Program” program.

In a market where energy prices are cheap, the primary mechanism to incentivize these projects is via Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). One REC is equivalent to 1 MWh and it’s the “clean energy” attribute of generating renewable energy. These certificates will be set according to the “Adjustable Block Program” for community solar and behind the meter projects.

Depending on the size of the project and the utility company whose territory the project lies in, the Illinois Power Agency will grant REC values to incentivize these projects. There are separate blocks for community solar and those for distributed generation (DG), which consists of commercial, industrial, and residential.

On the community solar side, based on IPAs draft procurement plan, these REC values may range from just above $100/REC to just under $50/REC. Similarly on the DG side, these REC values may range from close to $80/REC to $30/REC, depending on size and the block.

IPA has issued the first three blocks and the REC values in these blocks will reduce over time. Hence it is important to get in early. These REC values will be paid at an accelerated level of 100% up front for residential solar and within five years for commercial and community solar projects. All incentives along with the federal investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation are expected to defray the upfront cost of doing solar.

Click here to read more!