The University of Minnesota is continuing to invest in renewable, locally produced energy sources. With approval from the Board of Regents last week, the Twin Cities campus will annually purchase 46 million kilowatt hours of community solar garden subscriptions from Innovative Power Systems, subsidiaries of NextEra Energy Resources, and US Solar over the next 25 years.
“The University balances three principles when delivering energy services – environmental impact, cost effectiveness, and reliability,” said Shane Stennes, director of sustainability. “The community solar subscriptions advance these principles, will result in significant cost savings, and support the development of more renewable electricity in Minnesota. Combined with our October 2016 purchase from Geronimo Energy, 14 percent of our annual electrical consumption will be tied to community solar by the end of 2018.”
A community solar garden is a centralized, shared solar electricity facility connected to the energy grid that has multiple subscribers. The community solar gardens will produce electricity and renewable energy certificates to be provided to Xcel Energy. The University pays the solar facility operators based on its share in the garden and the actual electricity production from the solar gardens. The University receives credits from Xcel on its electric bill based upon the production of the solar garden and the University’s subscription share of the garden.
Part of the push for more community solar came from the SUN Delegation, a program of the Solar Endowment project funded through the U.S. Department of Energy's Sunshot Initiative, a coalition of students who study all aspects of solar energy and advocate for university investment.
"I'm so proud of the students in our SUN Delegation, who worked with the U to help enable this important step forward toward sustainability," said Ellen Anderson, director of the Energy Transition Lab at the Institute on the Environment. "This solar purchase demonstrates the University's land-grant mission to support Minnesota's energy transition, our state's renewable energy policy goals and our booming job opportunities through education, engagement and leading by example."
The solar gardens will be built in Carver, Dakota, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington, and Wright Counties. Some of the gardens are expected to be completed in 2017, with the remainder coming online in 2018. The electricity production is enough to power over 5,000 average Minnesota homes.
The University has been exploring renewable energy opportunities as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. In its 2011 Climate Action Plan, the University set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2020 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- Agriculture and Environment