State Doles Out Even More Money For Solar Power

The State of Minnesota has gifted more taxpayer dollars to the solar industry. This time the subsidies take the form of a $3.5 million state loan package that was used to restart the production of solar panels at a Mountain Iron manufacturing facility.

The plant was previously occupied by the solar company Silicon Energy- that is, before it went bankrupt after the first round of solar subsidies, dubbed “Made in Minnesota,” expired in 2017. In fact, nearly all of the companies who participated in the program have closed their facilities in the state or gone out of business. That’s a telltale sign that the industry simply can’t stand on its own merit.

Upon closer examination, the company’s growth is dependent upon more government policies that mandate the use of solar power, not free markets. According to the Star Tribune:

[The company] will prioritize commercial clients buying rooftop and ground-mount solar panels, with less emphasis on the residential rooftop market, he added.

Another successful sector for Heliene has been community solar gardens, which constitute half of the company’s sales, he said. Minnesota’s growing community solar garden program, the largest in the country, has been a boon for the company, and Illinois may represent the next big market for Heliene, he said.

“Our business is based on volume,” Pochtaruk said. “It’s easier to sell 1,000 panels to one customer than 1,000 panels to many customers.”

The factory’s growth would not have occurred without support from governmental agencies in Minnesota, he conceded. Without the state money, “for sure it would not (been located) on the Iron Range,” he said.

Minnesota’s community solar gardens come at enormous cost. Xcel Energy senior director of customer solutions Lee Gabler stated 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.”

These gardens are only being built to satisfy the state’s solar electricity mandate, which requires 1.5 percent of electricity sales in the state come from solar power regardless of how much it costs. Does that sound like a free market policy to you?

The Iron Range needs businesses that are truly sustainable, not businesses that are only kept afloat by government handouts.

So why is the state doubling down on a failed industry?