Large Minnesota businesses embracing community solar - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Energy Procurement, Industrial, Utilities, Commercial, Finance, Industrial, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  September 27, 2016

Big Minnesota businesses ink community solar deals

NRG Energy Inc. has announced plans to build five Minnesota community solar projects alongside corporate subscription agreements for their electric output, totaling approximately 29 MW dc.

The news  highlights growing interest from both large and small businesses in community solar as an option for meeting corporate renewable energy or sustainability objectives. The independent power producer said in a Sept. 27 news release that it is moving forward with 25-year solar subscription agreements, or SSAs, signed by more than 1,000 residents and several large businesses in the state, including:

  • U.S. Bancorp, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the U.S., with six sites subscribed, including the iconic U.S. Bank Plaza in Minneapolis;
  • Land O'Lakes Inc., a national member-owned agricultural cooperative based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills, with its corporate headquarters subscribing;
  • Macy's, one of the country's largest retail brands, with three of its retail sites subscribing; and
  • Ecolab Inc., the global water, hygiene and energy technologies services provider, headquartered in St. Paul, with several of its corporate facilities subscribing.

Electricity generated at NRG's Minnesota community solar farms will flow to the local utility's grid. Customers then receive a bill credit from their utility — Xcel Energy Inc. — for their subscribed share of the electricity produced by the community solar farm.

The five projects, which NRG's renewables business has already broken ground on in Minnesota, include the 6.7 MW dc Forest Lake Project in Washington County; the 6.1 MW dc Farmington Project in Dakota County; the 3.5 MW dc Pine Island Project in Goodhue County; the 6.7 MW dc Highway 14 Project in Olmstead County; and the 6.1 MW dc Dodge Project in Dodge County. Each of the projects are slated for completion by early 2017 and will serve both businesses and residential customers, NRG said in its announcement. 

"We seek out partnerships that positively impact the environment and participating in this unique community solar garden initiative is a great example of that," U.S. Bank's Reba Dominski, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility said in a statement. "We are proud to be a subscriber along with Land O'Lakes, Macy's, Ecolab and others, and congratulate NRG for its leadership and investment in this important work. We are excited to see the positive impact the gardens will have on our communities."

The news follows other recent announcements from businesses turning to community solar for their renewable energy procurement needs, particularly in states like Minnesota that have regulatory support for the projects. Minnesota's Legislature in 2013 established a program that allows customers of the state's investor-owned utilities, like Xcel Energy, to receive a share of electricity output from a community solar system.

NRG credited Xcel Energy, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and the state Legislature for their support of the state's community solar program. 

"Their forward-thinking leadership — along with that of our flagship customers in four Minnesota counties — is paving the way for other states to follow suit," NRG's Drew Warshaw said.

Photo: Courtesy of NRG Energy 

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