- Pushed by over 400 applications for community solar gardens since the offering's December open, Xcel Energy Minnesota has asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to alter the program rules in the state’s landmark 2013 energy law to regulate development.
- The utility wants the PUC to require procurement of solar gardens through competitive bidding, like procurement of other generation, instead of requiring the utility to accept any development with a properly completed application into the uncapped program. Xcel asserts competitive bidding would reduce costs to customers.
- Xcel has also asked the PUC to change the community solar rules so that developers cannot build multiple community solar gardens next to each other.
Community solar is a program that allows customers — particularly those who are unable to install solar themselves — to buy into a shared solar project, according to a report from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
Minnesota’s 2013 community solar gardens bill was designed with no cap on capacity to prevent utilities from limiting distributed solar growth.
Xcel’s plan would reduce the proposed 400-plus MW of community solar gardens to 80 MW. The 400 MW pipeline is worth an estimated potential investment of $1 billion. The gardens could increase customers’ bills 1.8%, according to Xcel.
Solar advocates argue the PUC should avoid creating regulatory uncertainty that could slow solar growth.
Minnesota’s Commerce Department has suggested the PUC regulate solar development by limiting each developer to ten, one megawatt gardens per community solar site.