Minnesota’s solar market grew significantly in the first quarter, adding 105 megawatts of power, the fifth most among states during that time, according to data released Tuesday.
Minnesota has total of 849.5 megawatts of solar production, enough power for 116,670 homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade group.
A megawatt is one million watts, and by comparison Xcel Energy’s largest coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Minnesota each have a capacity of over 600 megawatts (though they can operate continuously).
Minnesota now ranks 14th among states for total solar power, considerably higher than a couple of years ago. During 2018’s first quarter, Minnesota’s solar market grew 89 percent, according to GTM and SEIA’s report.
Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden program has been driving the state’s solar growth over the past year. Xcel Energy administers the program, which was created by the state legislature in 2013. It’s aimed at residents, businesses and governments that want solar energy without setting up their own rooftop solar arrays.
As of June 1, there were 105 community solar gardens operating in Minnesota, with a total capacity of 364 megawatts, according to Xcel. That compares to 25 sites with 80 megawatts a year ago.
Nationally, the solar market grew by 13 percent or 2.5 gigawatts during the first quarter, showing resiliency despite new tariffs on imported solar panels, according to GTM and SEIA.