Solar energy can provide electricity, hot water or space heating depending upon the technology used. According to the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, Minnesota is home to approximately 400 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems as of July 2010. It is estimated that there are also hundreds of solar thermal systems throughout the state. The solar capacity in Minnesota is expected to double in 2010 from two megawatts to four megawatts, with a steady rise in thermal projects, too.
Gil Young and Janet Krueger installed a solar water heating system at their St. Paul home in 2009. They’ve since reported great results, saying, “We are very pleased with our solar hot water system. It’s nice to know we can use the sun to heat our water, even in the wintertime! Over the last two summers, (since we installed our system), we’ve cut our use of natural gas [used for heating water] by over 75%!” The Krueger-Young residence features two 4×8 collectors that were manufactured by Solar Skies, a Minnesota-based company. A two-collector system is typical in Minnesota’s climate and can reasonably supply about 75% of the energy needed for water heating annually.
Businesses are investing in solar too. Mulroy’s Body Shop in Minneapolis recently leased a photovoltaic system from Solarflow Energy to supply electricity. The 174 panels atop Mulroy’s will provide about 30% of the shop’s electricity annually. Pat Mulroy said he made the choice for business reasons and for his grandchildren, adding, “People come in for an estimate for their car and leave more knowledgeable about solar.”
In 2008, the federal Department of Energy awarded Minneapolis and St. Paul a grant to expand solar capacity as part of the Solar America Cities program. The goal of the Solar America Cities effort is to increase solar capacity five-fold in the Twin Cities in two years’ time. The increased use of solar energy has a number of benefits including power from a secure, endless supply of energy; reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gases; and jobs in manufacturing and installation.
To meet the challenge, the Twin Cities partnered with key organizations and businesses to jumpstart widespread deployment of solar technologies. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are expected to break ground on large-scale solar projects in 2010: a 600 kilowatt solar electric system on the Minneapolis Convention Center and a large solar thermal system at District Energy in downtown St. Paul.
With an increasing number of people in the Twin Cities enjoying the benefits of solar energy, the Minneapolis St. Paul Solar America Cities initiative recently launched a new statewide awareness campaign to demonstrate that solar is already working in Minnesota and is rapidly growing as a reliable, renewable energy source that is increasingly accessible to those who want it. These efforts are being unified under the banner “Solar Works.”
The Solar Works campaign is designed both to increase awareness of existing solar energy systems already in place throughout Minnesota and to inspire more property owners across the state to install their own solar systems. The tagline will be used by solar advocates, the solar installation industry, property owners who already have solar systems and local governments who want to promote solar electric and thermal energy. To find out how solar can work for you, contact the Minnesota Office of Energy Security and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society.
Minnesota Renewable Energy Society
Department of Commerce
Minnesota Office of Energy Security
St. Paul, MN