Minnesota ranks low in solar energy production

Solar energy
Solar panels on the fire hall rooftop in Red Wing, Minn.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2013

Minnesota has again landed in the bottom half in a ranking of states' abilities to produce energy from solar panels.

The report by Environment America shows no states in the Midwest in the top 10. Minnesota ranks 33rd in cumulative solar capacity per capita, according to the report.

Nevada led the ranking in per capita solar capacity, followed by Hawaii, California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Colorado.

But even in those states, the report says there's room for more. No state currently generates more than 8 percent of its electricity from solar.

In Minnesota, 2016 is expected to be a big year for solar development, with dozens of projects being constructed throughout the state. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Minnesota generated about 44 percent of its electricity from burning coal in 2015, and Xcel Energy's two nuclear plans generated about 21 percent of the state's electricity.

State law requires utilities to generate 1.5 percent of electricity from solar by the end of 2020. The state is on track to meet its overall renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025.

Minnesota law allows homeowners to install solar panels and sell excess electricity to the grid — an arrangement known as net metering. But there's a dispute between rural electric co-ops and state regulators over whether the co-ops can charge those customers a fee. Other states have eliminated net metering programs in recent years.

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