Solar flares

Minnesota adds expensive and unnecessary solar as electricity prices soar.

Minnesota’s electricity prices have increased 26 percent more than the national average since 2007, yet we continue to add more expensive and unnecessary solar power. Adding more solar will increase our electricity prices even more.

The Star Tribune recently reported that Minnesota’s solar market added 105 megawatts of power during the first quarter of 2018, the fifth most among states during that time.

Minnesota has a total of 849.5 megawatts of solar capacity, enough power for 116,670 homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade group, the paper said.

Unfortunately, SEIA’s claims about how many homes can be served with solar power are misleading. Its figures reflect the maximum number of homes that could be served if the panels were operating at 100 percent capacity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which we know will never happen because the sun doesn’t shine at all hours of the day.

Furthermore, Minnesota’s need for electricity has been declining, not increasing, yet we continue to add electricity generating capacity that we simply don’t need. By doing this, we are paying twice for electricity generation and this is increasing costs.

It gets even worse, because community solar gardens are leading the way. The Star Tribune further reported that the state’s solar growth over the past year has been driven by Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden program, administered by Xcel Energy.

“As of June 1, there were 105 community solar gardens operating in Minnesota, with a total capacity of 364 megawatts, according to Xcel. That compares to 25 sites with 80 megawatts a year ago,” the paper said.

Tom Steward of American Experiment has quoted Xcel Energy Senior Director of Customer Strategy and Solutions Lee Gabler as saying community solar gardens are twice as expensive as utility-scale operations:

“Community solar gardens aren’t cheap for Xcel,” Gabler said. “Solar energy from the gardens costs the company 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, almost twice as expensive as utility-scale electricity.” It is important to remember the growth in solar has been propelled by the state’s solar energy mandate, not free markets. The mandate requires that 1.5 percent of electricity sales in the state be derived from solar.

The solar mandate will continue to cost Minnesotans dearly because it is requiring the use of an expensive, intermittent, and unnecessary form of energy. Removing this mandate should be a top priority of free market legislators in the future.