Report: 10 percent solar in reach

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Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center

MINNEAPOLIS – Solar power is growing so fast in Minnesota that goals once considered ambitious are now seen as readily achievable, according to a new report by Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center.

“We can get to 10% solar in Minnesota by 2030 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Bret Fanshaw with Environment Minnesota. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and the future of our planet.”

The group’s researchers found that solar has grown 61% in recent years. Even if this pace slowed to 43%, solar could still generate 10% of Minnesota’s electricity by 2030– a non-mandatory goal set by the state under the 2013 Solar Energy Jobs Act.

Achieving that target, the report said, would cut as much carbon pollution as 1.3 million cars emit in a year, and put Minnesota more than one-third of the way to the benchmark set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in power plant carbon pollution in the state of 41 percent by 2030.

“This report from Environment Minnesota shows that Minnesota can reach 10% of our electric energy generation by 2030,” said State Senator John Marty, Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “That is great news for Minnesota’s economy, for businesses and workers, and it is great news for the environment and for public health. Solar power costs continue to fall, while fossil fuel costs continue to rise and Minnesota will benefit by this exponential growth in the use of the sun’s free energy supply to meet our electric needs.”

Solar is currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, adding 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013. According to the latest Clean Energy Economy report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, solar employed 1,230 people in Minnesota in 2014.

“Solar jobs in Minnesota will grow dramatically over the next few years as strong 2013 state solar policies are implemented,” said Lynn Hinkle, Policy Director with Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association (MnSEIA). “Solar means economic development for Minnesota, not just homegrown clean energy.”

The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Already, the state is home to more than 600,000 residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the state’s energy needs 150 times over.

“When it comes to solar energy, the sky’s the limit,” said Fanshaw. “Getting to 10% solar is the just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy.”