Minnesota Power offers bigger solar rebates

Minnesota Power, the utility serving northeastern Minnesota, has announced it will pay up to 60 percent, or $20,000, of the cost of a new solar electric system.

Homes and businesses would also be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit, in addition to rebates for meeting energy efficiency standards and for nonprofit or tax-exempt customers. That means a typical residential solar system costing $40,000, could cost as little as $8,000 to the buyer.

But to maximize the size of their rebate, customers need to puchase solar products manufactured in Minnesota. That qualifies them for an additional $1,000 per installed kilowatt "Minnesota Made incentive," on top of the utility's existing base rebate of $2,000/kW.

The incentive for locally manufactured equipment matches an existing program already offered by Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility. But currently only two companies manufacture solar panels in the state, TenKsolar in Bloomington, and Silicon Energy, which recently opened a manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron.

Dan Williams, vice president of a Champlin-based solar installation company, told Midwest Energy News that the "Made in Minnesota" rebate programs help Minnesota-made solar equipment compete with cheap Chinese imports. Williams, whose company is called Powerfully Green, said a three kilowatt project with Silicon Energy panels might cost $25,000. But with Xcel Energy's Minnesota made rebate, he said, the homeowner's bill is only about $5,000.

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