Lawmakers take part in solar energy tour
State Representatives John Ward, DFL -- Baxter, and Joe Radinovich, DFL -- Crosby, recently participated in a visit by the Legislative Energy Commission. The commission was in the Brainerd Lakes area to tour local solar projects.
State Representatives John Ward, DFL - Baxter, and Joe Radinovich, DFL - Crosby, recently participated in a visit by the Legislative Energy Commission. The commission was in the Brainerd Lakes area to tour local solar projects.
In 2013 the Legislature enacted legislation establishing a solar energy standard of 1.5 percent by 2020, with the future goal of 10 percent by 2030. If the standard is reached, Minnesota will have almost 500 MW of installed solar power capacity by the end of the decade. If current trends continue, solar energy will likely become cheaper than fossil-fuel based generation within 10 years.
"The environmental benefit of generating electricity without burning any fossil fuels cannot be overstated," said Rep. Ward. "The value of establishing the solar industry in this state - not just manufacturers, but installers, technicians, parts suppliers, and makers of accessory technology like battery storage - also cannot be overstated. Our area has some great solar projects happening and it's my hope that the great organizations and companies in our area - like RREAL - can be an example for the rest of the state."
"As with wind energy two decades ago, the stage is set for Minnesota to reap a huge benefit from strategic encouragement of solar energy," said Rep. Radinovich. "Our state has incredible potential for solar energy, and increasing Minnesota's solar capacity will boost our economy, protect our environment, and save Minnesotans money over the long term."
The commission started by visiting The Farm on St. Mathias. The Farm is using solar energy to heat a hoop house. The project is in a testing phase, but they expect it will lengthen the season by more than 3-4 weeks. All through last winter, the ground in that hoop house never froze according to a news release from the two lawmakers.
The commission also visited the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, which is using solar energy to heat a storage building in the winter, saving the airport significant energy costs.
The commission wrapped up its tour with a visit to the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), at the Hunt Utilities Group. RREAL is a Pine River nonprofit organization that runs a solar assistance program to outfit qualifying low-income homes with solar heating systems. RREAL also conducts research and is a solar thermal manufacturer and contractor. The commission held a hearing on Minnesota's propane supply and delivery, and natural gas system extensions.