Minnesota’s Solar Race

The race to be the largest solar project in the state continues with Ikea surpassing the Minneapolis Convention Center’s current lead by nearly doubling the size of the PV system they are going to install at the Bloomington store to 1.1 MW! Between 2008 and 2011, the capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in Minnesota expanded from 1 MW to 8 MW with more than 600 solar electric installations in the state. 

In case, you haven’t been watching the race, here’s a recap of the leaders:

2009: In Collegeville, St. John’s University (who recently announced plans to put coal burning on hold at their campus boiler for at least 2 years) installed a 400 kw system that at peak provides 20% of the campus’s electricity.
credit: St. John’s University

2010: Minneapolis Convention Center installed a 600 kw system on its roof producing 750,000 kwh enough to power 85 homes and reduce 539 metric tons of CO2 annually. Minneapolis already has three smaller solar installations with a total capacity of 11.8 kW, which save the City $1,300 each year on energy costs and reduce CO2 emissions by 24,272 pounds each year. With the University of Minnesota announcing last year it was nearly eliminating all coal burning at its SE steam plant and the 2009 conversion of the Riverside coal plant, Minneapolis is very near to being a coal-free city. 
credit: Westwood Land and Energy Development Consultants

2010: St. Paul, not to be outdone, went a slightly different route and installed the Upper Midwest’s largest solar thermal system on the RiverCentre building downtown in partnership with District Energy (nearly 1 MW) that will reduce 900,000 tons of CO2 annually.  Xcel converted the High Bridge power plant in St. Paul to natural gas in 2007.


2010: The Mayo Clinic in Rochester installed a 145.5 kw photovoltaic solar system (largest commercial project in the state) The panels, installed on the roof of a parking ramp, will generate between 150,000 and 200,000 kilowatt-hours a year, enough energy to power 15 to 20 homes. Mayo Clinic receives steam heat from the Silver Lake coal plant in a controversial upgrade made to the coal plant in the early 2000s. 

The race to solar also means jobs in Minnesota. Both the Minneapolis Convention Center and St. John’s University solar projects were developed by Westwood, a land and energy consulting firm with three offices in Minnesota. From technology developed by 3M to manufacturers in Bloomington and Mt. Iron to installers across the state, employment in this sector is rising like the sun!

Learn more about the Minnesota Solar Works coalition’s effort to achieve 10% of Minnesota’s electricity from solar. Or if you’d like to propose a solar project at your business or in your community, check out this community guide.

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