Minnesota and Wisconsin Are About the Worst States To Put Solar Panels, Research Shows

Minnesota and my homeland of Wisconsin are often portrayed as rivals with large differences, but when it comes to solar power, they’re both scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The map below from Lawrence Berkeley Labs shows solar irradiance, the output of light energy from the Sun, throughout the country. As you can see, Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with Michigan and Northeastern states are the worst places in America to put solar panels. Despite the low potential for solar in Minnesota, we have installed increasing amounts of solar panels in our state.

Even maps from renewable energy advocacy groups show that solar in Minnesota and Wisconsin is silly. The map below is from Vibrant Clean Energy, and although the LCOE numbers in the lower left-hand corner are likely factoring in subsidies, the map demonstrates that solar cost more in Minnesota and Wisconsin than most other states.

Not surprisingly, capacity factors, the amount of electricity generated compared to a solar panel’s theoretical output, are lowest in the Northeast and Midwest.

This is why Minnesota’s mandates for solar panels make no sense. Capacity factors are low, and low capacity factors have huge implications for cost. Considering solar panel owners have stated that it is “too expensive” to clear snow off of solar panels, how can anyone seriously argue that building solar in northern states is a good use of ratepayer resources? Can you imagine not being able to use your car in the winter because there was snow on the windshield?

Advocating for more solar in MinneSnowta and Wisconsin is energy-illiteracy, plain and simple.