In Hennepin County, there are currently 25 Community Solar Garden (CSG) applications, totaling 23.30 megawatts of power, that have been reviewed for completeness – which is the big step prior to the “design and construction” phase of a CSG. Two smaller garden applications (.07 MW) are now in that design phase.
Minnesota Details for Xcel Energy Service Area
According to the latest paperwork filed February 9, 2016, by Xcel Energy to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission:
- 258 applications (242 MW) in the project pipeline for Community Solar Gardens (CSGs) were cancelled because developers did not pay application fees by the pre-established January 19 deadline.
- Of 1,044 active applications, 154 are still in the “initial application” stage.
- There are 778 applications in process, comprising 731 MW or 160 project sites. About 124 projects are scheduled for study completion by the end of March. “We anticipate a significant amount of study analysis to be conducted in February and March moving a significant volume of projects into our detail design process.”
- 24 sites (107 MW) have entered the later “design and construction” stage, which involves detailed final project design prior to going into construction. “We anticipate that several projects will move into construction within the next two months.”
Xcel Energy has pending action required on 70 percent of the applications, while the remainder are awaiting further payment or information from the Garden Operator. After the project moves to “design” stage, Xcel Energy and the developer work together to refine design and construct the systems.
One delay for some projects is around overhead lines on private property. “Certain cities have determined that overhead lines will not be permitted on private property. In these cases, solar garden developments will be required to utilize underground lines – both substantially increasing the project cost and lengthening the construction process. The Company is reviewing policies on private property to determine the best path forward.”
Warning to Customers
Noting that Xcel Energy has heard about “robust subscription efforts,” including calls to its call center by customers, it offers this reminder (originally detailed in a MPLSGreen.com story here):
“We have become increasingly concerned regarding media stories out of several Minnesota communities regarding Garden Operator sales tactics. Several calls to our customer care call center were received regarding door-to-door solicitations and Garden Operator claims of representing Xcel Energy.”
“The Company does not have direct access to marketing plans belonging to Garden Operators, nor are we directly involved in the marketing of particular Solar*Rewards Community gardens. We have and will continue to be clear that solar developers should not state that they are partnered with, are representing or “are part of” Xcel Energy; rather they are participating in a program supported by Xcel Energy.
Clarification Around Credits
Xcel Energy is also continuing to provide clarification about “subscribers’ ability to claim green energy offsets.” In all but one current project, garden subscribers receive bill credits, and the “Renewable Energy Credit” (REC) reverts to ownership by Xcel Energy for renewable standard compliance. “Subscribers are not offsetting or using green energy as a result of their subscriptions. Many customers cited in media reports appear to be confused on this topic.”
— Mikki Morrissette, founder, MPLSGreen.com