- The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission reviewed and approved Xcel Energy’s community shared solar program and accepted a partial settlement agreement between the utility and a small group of solar developers that sets a 5 MW system cap on co-located installations.
- The decision is regarded by most Minnesota solar advocates as pivotal in moving the Xcel program ahead in time to get a significant portion of the 420 MW of serious project applications online before the federal investment tax credit (ITC) drops from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016.
- The just-released U.S. Community Solar Outlook 2015-2020 from GTM Research forecasts Minnesota’s community shared solar will reach 81 MW by the end of 2016, but that number could increase, as it was devised while major uncertainties in the co-location cap remained.
The increased regulatory certainty and Xcel’s commitment to completing interconnections are expected to move construction ahead and allow Minnesota to lead U.S. community shared solar growth, according to SunShare CEO David Amster-Olzewski.
The agreement approved by the Public Utilities Commission included, according to renewables advocate Fresh Energy, a retroactive 5 MW limit for projects at an interconnection, the option to propose new projects up to 5 MW until September 25, and a limit on project proposals of 1 MW after that.
Because developers like SunEdison and SolarCity, and ratepayer advocates, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, argue a 10 MW cap would make arrays more economic for subscribers and only impose a 0.25% to 0.5% rate increase, the commission may revisit that question before its final decision, expected in 30 days.
“A 10 MW cap would lead to rate increases for our customers of close to 3%,” Xcel Energy VP Laura McCarten explained to Utility Dive. “With a 5 MW cap, the rate increase would be about 2%.”