The Metropolitan Council, together with an array of partners, is providing a major boost to the Community Solar Garden (CSG) capacity in the state of Minnesota. In the past week, CSGs began commercial operations at two of the Council’s wastewater treatment plants in the south metro.
A 5 megawatt (MW) solar garden powered up Dec. 14 at the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant in Empire Township. A 3 MW solar garden went online Dec. 19 at the Council’s Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee. In total, these projects represent nearly 20% of CSGs expected in 2016 through Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community program.
“These projects will significantly increase Minnesota’s solar garden capacity, while providing reliable, affordable, clean energy for local customers,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “I thank Xcel Energy and the Metropolitan Council for their continued commitment to developing our renewable energy resources.”
“This expansion is great news for our entire region and its residents,” said Council Chair Adam Duininck. “The gardens translate into financial savings for residents, as well as less pollution, including fewer fossil fuel emissions. I’m grateful to the partnerships that make these projects possible – including private utilities, investors, and developers.”
“We’re proud to help the Met Council achieve its sustainability goals by bringing these two large community solar gardens online,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “Solar power is a key element in Xcel Energy’s plan to deliver more than 60 percent carbon free energy for our customers by 2030.”
In addition to Xcel Energy, Oak Leaf Energy Partners, Cypress Creek Renewables, and Hunt Electric were also partners on this project.
Community solar gardens reduce subscriber electric bills
A CSG is an array of solar panels that governments, businesses, and households can subscribe to, rather than installing their own solar panels. The power generated flows to an electric utility; the subscriber of the CSG then receives a credit on its electric bill from the utility based on the energy generated and the size of its subscription.
Metro Transit and the Council’s Environmental Services – both large retail customers of Xcel Energy – are subscribing to the largest portion of the solar gardens. The remaining subscribers are made up of local governments near the plants.
“The financial value the Council realizes over the life of these subscriptions will be passed along as savings to our customers, whether they use Metro Transit services or are residents whose homes and businesses are connected to the regional wastewater treatment system,” said Sara Smith, Manager of Sustainable Operations at the Council.
Protecting public health and the environment is key
The Metropolitan Council has a unique ability to contribute to the expansion of solar. It is a natural host site for these large solar arrays, because it owns large parcels of available land at and around its wastewater treatment plants. Wastewater treatment operations typically are surrounded by large swaths of property as a buffer between treatment operations and residential or business areas.
In addition to the new CSG, the Met Council has an additional array of solar panels at the Blue Lake Plant in Shakopee, which generates power directly to help power plant operations.
“The Council is a significant energy consumer,” continued Duininck. “We have a responsibility to the region to find ways to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and emissions – it not only preserves and protects our natural resources, but contributes to better public health for residents. I’m proud we can continue to partner with Xcel Energy to increase the amount of clean energy in the region.”
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The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning organization in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Council runs the regional bus and light rail system and Northstar commuter rail, collects and treats wastewater, coordinates regional water resources, plans regional parks, and administers funds that provide housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents. The Council board is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.
Contact: Bonnie Kollodge, 651.602.1357 or Bonnie.Kollodge@metc.state.mn.us