Minnesota Makes Solar Energy Easier for Homeowners

Created: 03/13/2014 7:37 PM
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News) -- When Matt Mattingly turns on his TV, or any other appliance in his home, he's tapping into the power of the sun. More specifically, he's tapping into solar power.

"I thought solar would be a great way to pre-pay some of my electrical costs," said Mattingly, a recent solar panel user.

In some instances, Mattingly actually produces more energy than he uses. It's known as "solar value."

"It's what the customers would get or would sell their solar energy to the utility for," said Curt Shellum, owner of Rochester's Solar Connection.

Minnesota made some history with solar power integration this week. The state has come up with a new formula that makes it easier for homeowners, businesses, and utility companies to take advantage of solar energy.

At the same time, the state made it more attractive for solar companies to locate here as well.

Currently, compensating customers for generating their own energy is based on a formula, known as "net metering." But now there's a new formula, created by the State of Minnesota, utility companies, the Department of Commerce, and finalized by the Utility Commission. They have termed it as the "Value of Solar" formula.

"This is the first time it's been tried on a state level," said Micah Johnson, Solar Connections Operations Manager.

The "Value of Solar" formula is intended to make solar energy an equal benefit for businesses, the utility companies themselves and homeowners like Matt Mattingly.

"I thought solar would be a great way to pre-pay some of my electrical costs."

Other states like Texas have implemented similar formulas at individual utility sites, but Minnesota is the first to offer it statewide.

This formula only applies to investor-owned, for-profit utility groups. This excludes Rochester Public Utilities and includes Xcel and Alliant energy companies.

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