- SolarCity, the biggest U.S. residential solar installer, will partner with Minnesota’s Sunrise Energy Ventures to invest $200 million in 100 community shared solar projects on the outskirts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
- Community arrays, called solar gardens in Minnesota, offer people without solar suitable roofs the benefits of owning solar such as reduced cost and long-term fixed-price electricity. Subscribers might be renters, utility customers whose usage is too low to justify a rooftop system, or homeowners whose roofs are heavily shaded.
- This will be the first community shared solar commitment for the company that captured over a third of the U.S. residential market in 2014. To attract Minnnesota solar garden subscribers, SolarCity will offer a streamlined sign-up, a one-year-only commitment, and a 10% to 15% electricity bill reduction.
Though Sunrun was also one of the earliest users of third party ownership financing, many credit SolarCity with inventing the concept which allows homeowners to have the benefits of solar with no upfront payment or ownership responsibilities through a lease or power purchase agreement. The third party investor gets the tax benefits of ownership while SolarCity facilitates the investment and installation.
SolarCity, which now offers loans and other solar investment opportunities to residential customers, will compete with the SunShare-Mortenson solar development partnership on community solar in Minnesota, as will SunEdison and SoCore Energy.
Minnesota had 14 MW of installed solar in 2014 but this year Xcel Energy recieved some 600 applications to interconnect over 400 MW of community shared solar installations since it opened its Solar*Rewards Community for Minnesota offering.
Minnesota’s Community solar gardens bill, passed in 2013, was intentionally designed with no capacity cap to prevent utilities from limiting distributed solar. But the enormous response to the Xcel offering has forced the utility to ask state regulators to set limits.