Participate in a community garden (of solar power)

Original article.
Westmill Solar and Wind Farm, photo by David Butler

Early this year, seven new community gardens that went up in communities around Minnesota. The interesting piece is that these weren’t the type of gardens producing tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables; these were solar gardens made up of solar panels that harvest the sun’s energy to convert it into electricity.

These new gardens can now produce 32 megawatts of power. These were the first of a larger project that will in total generate 96 megawatts of power through gardens located not only in the Twin Cities, but around greater Minnesota as well. This project is a collaborative effort between Xcel Energy, BHE Renewables and Geronimo Energy.

President of Xcel Energy-Minnesota Christopher Clark had this to say of the joint effort, “We’re proud to work with dedicated partners as we bring more solar energy options to our customers. Xcel Energy is on a path to deliver a third of our energy from renewables by 2030, and solar plays a role in achieving this ambitious goal.”

Here’s how it works: A consumer buys a subscription to use the solar garden as a power source. The consumer/subscriber then gets a credit on their bill for the amount of power that was produced by the solar panels in their garden.

Senior Vice President and chief financial officer of BHE Renewables, Richard Weech mentions the positive impact these gardens should have on the environment and the economy, saying, “The solar garden sites are moving forward because of the many people and organizations that have strongly supported them. We believe subscriber-based programs will be an important component of the clean energy future for Minnesota and will have a positive impact on the state’s economy and environmental footprint.”

The third partner in this collaboration is Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy. Geronimo Energy developed the gardens listed below, which are now owned and operated by BHE Renewables:

  • Ursa Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 5 MW 1650 190th St. W., Farmington, MN 55024
  • Rosemount Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 5 MW 2505 160th St E, Rosemount, MN 55068
  • Northfield Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 5 MW 2300 North Ave, Northfield, MN 55057
  • Sunrise Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 5 MW 36320 Kost Trail, North Branch. MN 55056
  • Chisago Community Solar Gardens, LCC  – 4 MW 1152 Furuby Rd, Taylor Falls, MN 55084
  • Paynesville Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 5 MW 18982 293rd Ave, Paynesville, MN 56362
  • Orion Community Solar Gardens, LLC – 3 MW 14008 Fruit Farm Rd., St. Joseph, MN 56374

As president of the company Blake Nixon says, “Geronimo Energy is proud to be investing in our home state through Xcel Energy’s Minnesota Solar*Rewards Community program. With over one million solar panels in operation or currently being installed in Minnesota, we are pleased that our projects have created new jobs and positive local economic impacts, such as landowner payments and increased tax revenue.”

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power, i.e. make sure you do your homework before signing up for one of these programs. There have already been complaints filed with the Attorney General about possible marketing fraud and other devious sales tactics (as reported by MPR). The Attorney General has since set up a webpage with an overview of Community Solar Gardens and what to keep an eye out for. That page can be found HERE.

Another great site, that also offers some great tools such as contract checklists, subscriber financial tools, and tips. That site is provided by Clean Energy Resource Teams and can be found HERE.

(Unless otherwise noted, all above information was sourced from excelenergy.com)