Looking sunnier for solar in MN

As of March 2009, Minnesota had just 286 homes and businesses with solar installations, according to Department of Commerce data (on par with Wisconsin but well short of California’s 60,000).

solar2.jpgBut a new Iron Range solar manufacturing project is set to give the state’s energy mix a sunnier disposition. Silicon Energy, a Washington-based manufacturing company, is turning an old Iron Range mine dump just outside of Virginia, MN into a solar panel manufacturing plant early next year.

This plant will be the first business at the 40-acre site, which Mountain Iron hopes will be come a thriving renewable energy park. Silicon Energy says funding from the Iron Range Resources Board and incentives for Minnesotans to install solar panels were big factors in their decision to come to Minnesota.

Silicon Energy will be the 14th solar component maker in the state, according to the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s far fewer than the hundreds of solar companies operating in states like California, but it’s progress – and jobs.

solar.jpgJennifer Hawkins, Renewable Energy and Clean Technology Industry Specialist with DEED, says that they’re focusing on supporting development of the solar industry supply chain. So when companies like Silicon Energy are looking for a place to land they see Minnesota’s healthy solar ecosystem as friendly place to be.

Not only are Minnesotans manufacturing more solar components in the state, we’re installing more too, thanks in part to government incentives and Xcel Solar Rewards.

Public Insight Network source Daniel Williams is the vice president of Powerfully Green, a solar installation company. Williams says he’s seen a serious uptick in business over the past year, especially during the last six months.

No wonder. It’s hardly an explosion of activity, but it’s still impressive: In the last five months alone, 250 new homes and businesses have been approved to receive solar installation rebates with another 104 requests still under consideration. That’s nearly double the number in the state as of March 2009.

Xcel spokeswoman Patty Nystuen says there have been an additional 27 solar installation projects completed through their Solar Awards and another 150 likely to be completed by late fall.

Have you installed a solar project – or considered it? Post something below or drop us a line to share your experience.

Photos from CERTs via Flickr.

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