See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Thank you, John Farrell, for the counterpoint about Xcel's real reasons for disliking community solar ("Look past the shade utilities throw on community solar," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 5). We all need to be aware of the financial motivations of our state-approved energy monopoly. The fact is that solar technology lends itself incredibly well to locally owned and operated small- and midsize applications. But, as Farrell pointed out, Xcel's profits are driven primarily by large Xcel-owned installations and infrastructure. Much of this disconnect stems from the antiquated rules our Public Utility Commission uses to manage Xcel's profitability.

This new era of increasing electrical demand and new clean energy technology requires that our PUC adapt how they manage Xcel. Providing more profit incentives for conservation and efficiently managing how electricity flows are critical to take advantage of every available clean electron. Imagine everyone with an electric vehicle or local battery backup system, connected bidirectionally to a grid that Xcel can charge or draw from, based on real-time supply and demand.

Some forward-thinking communities are now working with their power companies to do just that. Green Mountain Power in Vermont has proposed installing batteries in 270,000 customer's homes rather than installing massive and expensive new infrastructure. It would control the batteries, charging them when wind turbines and solar panels were producing more energy and releasing it when needed. A May report by the Boston research firm the Brattle Group concluded that utilities could save up to $35 billion a year if they promoted smaller-scale energy projects like home batteries and rooftop solar panels that can be installed easily and quickly.

I know firsthand that these small systems make financial sense. Our rooftop panels produce more energy than our home uses, including charging our two EVs. In the last year, our system produced $1,320 in electricity, and we used $1,160 worth. In five more years, our system will have paid for itself. After that, the expected life of the panels will provide free electricity for 20 more years, including 20 years of free "gas" for our cars! On hot summer days, our system powers our AC, alleviating backup load for Xcel and reducing infrastructure cost for other ratepayers.

Mark Andersen, Wayzata


A few years ago, we installed as many solar panels as would fit on the south- and west-facing roofs of our garage. Almost everyone who sees the panels asks about how long will it take to be at a break-even point on our investment. Even the solar salespeople focus on the economic payback.

Why is that the first thing folks think about? No one asks me about the break-even point of our fence, our landscape or our decks, yet all of those things individually cost nearly the same as our solar panels. And what about cars or boats? Does anyone think of a break-even on them?

We invested in solar panels because it was the right thing to do for the environment, although saving money on our electric bill was a significant side benefit. I believe that the days of having to justify the expense of clean energy are past. It is a remnant of the fossil fuel industry's success at using cost as an objection to investing in clean energy.

April Spas, Minneapolis


Phillips' capital idea

I live in Rep. Dean Phillips' congressional district. Although I did not vote for him, I do respect him for doing what Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and every other Minnesota congressional representative never had the guts or common sense to do.

Phillips sacrificed his political career by calling a spade a spade and recognizing what every unbiased Minnesota can plainly see, that Joe Biden is unfit to be president.

Even if one pushes aside Biden's many economic and foreign policy failures (or his ethical lapses involving business deals with Hunter Biden), Joe Biden is too old and too cognitively challenged to be president.

Sadly, Democrats responded to Phillips' courage, honesty and concern for his country and party by essentially throwing him under the bus. Phillips deserved better from both his party and his political brethren who represent the state of Minnesota.

Corby Pelto, Plymouth


"Architect of war, architect of detente" (front page, Nov. 30) tells the amazing story of Henry Kissinger's influence on foreign policy and global affairs. At age 100, weeks before he died, he was actively consulting — still using his accumulated knowledge and experience that forged him into the respected statesman he was.

Those who criticize Biden's age need to put their thinking in perspective. Given the current state of global affairs — death and destruction in Ukraine, the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and tensions with China over Taiwan — I am grateful we have a president with in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs and dealing with world leaders.

Author Franklin Foer's book "The Last Politician" provides revealing insight into the Biden White House. According to Foer: "The promise of the Biden administration was competence. After the shambolic Trump years — where presidential whim guided bureaucracy — the new team would apply calm expertise." And one of Biden's most pressing challenges was the raging COVID pandemic.

Former President Donald Trump got kudos for Operation Warp Speed, the development of the COVID vaccines, but then he prohibited his administration from sharing information with president-elect Biden's transition team. Biden assigned Jeff Zients to implement Trump's vaccine distribution plans. But, according to Foer, after fruitless searching, Zients' team concluded they "[couldn't] find the plan because there wasn't one."

Clearly Biden's team had to bring logic to the chaos they inherited. In my opinion, Biden was the man well suited to that job. Likewise, he's suited to guide us in today's messy, war-weary world. Lessons learned in watching Kissinger consulting well into his late 90s brings Biden's age (82 if he wins in 2024) into better perspective.

William Steinbicker, Minnetonka


Many in the Minnesota DFL are condemning Rep. Phillips' bid to earn the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2024 election. Admittedly, he's a long shot, virtually unknown outside of his district, but at least he offers America an alternative.

Biden made a deal with the American people in the 2020 election. He'd be a bridge, serving a single term, and then work to usher in a new generation of Democratic leaders to guide the party into the future. He's done a fine job this term. Regardless, it may be time for him to step aside.

Here's the danger, which no one in the Democratic Party seems willing to publicly address: What is the viable backup plan in case anything happens to Biden?

What happens to the party's chances in the November 2024 election if Biden has a serious medical emergency or takes a Gerald Ford-style tumble down the stairs of Air Force One on international TV, anytime up until the election? For a man who will be 82 years old after the 2024 election arrives, it's a serious possibility.

It is an epic strategic blunder to concede the party's nomination to Biden without assessing other viable candidates. There are outstanding patriotic Democrats all across America who could lead the party, and the nation, if given the national stage to make their case to voters. The party would be wise to encourage those leaders to step into the fray now, before it's too late. Phillips is but one candidate to seriously consider. There are many others.

Jon Olson, Webster, Minn.