The Public Utilities Commission approves $256 million solar facility that will produce 0.5% of Minnesota’s electricity

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to approve the construction of a 200-megawatt (MW) solar facility on 1,550 acres of prime farmland in Dodge County at a cost of $256 million.

Unfortunately, despite spending a quarter billion dollars on the solar facility, it will probably only produce about 0.5 percent of Minnesota’s 2021 total electricity consumption. This calculation accounts for the fact that solar facilities in Minnesota only produced 20.4 percent of their potential output in 2021, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

With massive expenditures like these for so little energy return, it is no surprise that electricity rates in Minnesota continue to increase much faster than the national average, which you can see in the graph below.

Not only will this project increase your electric bills, but it will also increase your tax liability because solar facilities are heavily subsidized with your tax dollars. Last fall, I calculated that solar operators get nearly $50,000 per acre. Spread over an assumed 25-year lifespan means that’s $2,000 per acre per year.

Given these enormous amounts of taxpayer cash being lavished on solar developers, it comes as no surprise that in some areas, electric companies are offering farmers anywhere from $800 to $1,400 per acre to put solar panels on the fields, which is much more than they could ever hope to earn on the fields farming.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota PUC commissioners, all of whom were either appointed or reappointed by Governor Walz, rubber-stamped this massive expenditure because they seem to care more about expanding the use of renewables than ratepayers.

Sadly, the electricity price increases will continue until our energy policy improves.