Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The truth about Solar in Minnesota

I recently returned from Greenbuild in Phoenix, where the Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona built a LEED-Platinum Zero Energy Home! The Legacy Project, constructed in 5 days, was built for around $120,000 (including building materials and donated goods and labor), and used solar panels to offset the energy use in the home. After having a conversation with a good building contractor friend who is trying to be more green, I decided to investigate the truth about solar in Minnesota.

Does Minnesota have enough sun? Phoenix has 350 days a year of sunshine and definitely should be taking advantage of solar energy production. Minnesota actually has a lot of solar potential as well. According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota has more annual solar potential than Houston, Texas. They are a great resource for information on solar feasibility in Minnesota and even have a map that demonstrates solar potential. After looking at this site, you will see that while you may never create excess energy to go back into the grid, the potential for solar is definitely there. Combine this with a well-sealed house and energy-efficient appliances and living behaviors (e.g. turning off your computer when not in use), and you may be completely set!

Aren't solar panels still just too expensive? There are actually a lot of funding sources out there right now. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency can help you find funding for your renewable energy project. Like all things, they do cost money, but as energy prices increase over the next few years, the solar panels may be paying for themselves.

So what about local options? Can you get solar panels that both travel short distances and support our local economy? Minnesota offers two solar panel production plants:

SolarSkies in Starbuck, MN
tenKsolar in Bloomington, MN

What if I just don't like the look of solar panels or am not sold on solar?

Don't forget that the sun can help in ways other than just energy production - passive solar heating (orienting a house with south-facing windows that heat a large thermal mass) and solar hot water systems work great in Minnesota!

Other renewable energy options are also available. The Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTS) network and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society can help point you in the right direction.

So great job, Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona! Click here to see how Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota is accomplishing its own green goals.

1 comment:

lucasoffice said...

Great article. I have heard so much about Germany and there advancement in PV, that your article reminded me I wanted to find some hard data. The myth goes: Germany for the most part has less solar to collect than we do here in MN. And Yet! they have collectors everywhere. It goes without saying that the less you have the more you would need to collect, but the part that contradicts my logic is the economics of it. Here these people are making great strides in this arena and must be spending there life savings to gain less solar power than we would here in MN. Do you know where I could find such "hard data"? I have used 3Tier.com to see what my potential would be here in Champlin but have not seen where I could find say Frankfurt. You know what THEY say, "and knowing is half the battle"!