Do solar gardens seem like a good investment?


“Bison farmer and cheesemaker Ed Eichten was rifling through his office, a cluttered monument to adventure. He was surrounded by deer antlers, statues of bison, an old bison skull and even a mounted zebra skin, writes Jennifer Vogel for MPR News.

Finally, he pulled out a couple of binders stuffed with paper and retrieved an aerial photo of the four-acre field that will be home to one of the state’s first rural community solar gardens next spring.

“That’s where it will go,” said Eichten, wearing an insulated vest over his red flannel shirt. The land was only marginal for hay anyway. “It’s such a little field. It’s odd-shaped.”

The 1-megawatt solar garden, which will include 3,000 panels and produce enough energy to power more than 100 houses, will be built by St. Paul’s Innovative Power Systems to benefit home- and business-owners who may live nowhere near Eichten’s Hidden Acres farm.

A newly sanctioned arrangement in Minnesota will let anyone in Chisago County or adjacent counties invest in the project and earn credits on his or her Xcel Energy bills. The overall effect is to make it easier for people to generate their own solar power, because investing in the project tends to be cheaper and more practical than mounting personal arrays on individual rooftops.

Today’s Question: Do solar gardens seem like a good investment?