SAINT PAUL — Minnesota generated 21 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2015, up from just six percent a decade ago, putting the state well on pace to exceed its Renewable Energy Standard of 25 percent by 2025, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Renewable energy includes wind, solar, hydro and biomass.
“Minnesota’s commitment to renewable energy is showing clear results,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Since 2005, Minnesota’s electric power generated from renewal sources has more than tripled. We have reduced our dependence on polluting coal that must be imported from outside the state, while increasing our own clean energy made right here in Minnesota. It’s a tremendous benefit for our energy sector, our economy and jobs, and our environment.”
In 2007, Minnesota adopted landmark bipartisan legislation, the Next Generation Energy Act. It established one of the nation’s most aggressive Renewable Energy Standards, which requires the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025.
Legislation passed in 2013 also established a Solar Energy Standard which requires that 1.5 percent of Minnesota’s electricity come from solar energy by 2020, with a goal of 10 percent by 2030.
Rothman said, “Recent action by Congress that extends federal wind and solar tax incentives for five years will add further momentum to renewable energy growth. It makes good sense for Minnesota to now look at boosting our Renewable Energy Standard to at least 40 percent by 2030 and beyond.”
According to 2015 year-end figures compiled by the Minnesota Commerce Department and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 17 percent of the state’s electricity was generated by wind energy, compared to just three percent in 2005. Meanwhile, coal-fired electricity dropped from 62 percent in 2005 to 44 percent in 2015.
Although it contributed less than one percent of the state’s electricity in 2015, solar energy is primed for dramatic growth. In 2016 alone, Minnesota’s solar power generation is expected to increase 15-fold.
Solar growth will come from rooftop panels, community solar and utility-scale projects. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, estimates at least 250 megawatts (MW) will be installed in 2016 as part of its community solar garden program.
Several large-scale solar projects are under construction or development, including North Star Solar near North Branch (100 MW) and Aurora Solar at multiple locations (100 MW). Minnesota Power recently received state approval for a 10 MW solar project at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.