Video: Here's how Minnesota is doing with renewable energy

Wind turbines near Blue Earth, Minn.
Just ahead of Earth Day, MPR News takes stock of the state's moves away from coal and toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Mark Steil | MPR News file

Coal still rules in Minnesota, accounting for about 40 percent of electricity generation in the state as of last year.

But as renewable energy technology improves and people increasingly seek environmentally friendly energy, renewable sources are gaining.

Here are some key points that illustrate the state of renewable energy in Minnesota:

• Solar energy is growing rapidly here. Minnesota added enough solar panels in 2017 to power about 53,000 homes, and strong growth is expected to continue in the new year.

• It's a booming job market, too. Solar industry jobs increased by 113 percent between 2015 and 2017.

• Most of our electricity comes from coal. However, Xcel plans to shut down two of the three coal-fired generators at its Sherco plant as part of its plan to reduce carbon emissions and keep costs down. The utility plans to build a natural gas power plant to make up for some of the reduced capacity at Sherco.

• Minnesota and 13 other states are on track to hit the emissions reduction goals set out in the Paris climate accord. Despite President Trump pulling the U.S. from the deal, it still looks like the states that are part of the U.S. Climate Alliance will collectively hit the goal of reducing 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent come 2025, though Minnesota's own goals call for a 30 percent reduction by 2025.

• Nuclear power is a big electricity source. While renewable sources made headlines this year for topping nuclear energy, Minnesota's two nuclear power plants still supplied almost a quarter of the state's electricity last year.

• Minnesota is in the top 10 states for wind power. In 2016 alone, Minnesota added enough wind energy to power 150,000 homes. Just under one-fifth of electricity in Minnesota comes from wind.

Watch the video below to see MPR News environment reporter Elizabeth Dunbar and climate reporter Cody Nelson discuss more on Minnesota energy and take audience questions on topics including how individuals can get renewable energy, tax breaks and regulation, policy goals, and more.

Editors note: This story has been updated to clarify that Minnesota is part of an alliance of states that is expected to collectively meet emissions reduction goals set out in the Paris climate accord.