Q&A with Xcel: Community Solar Gardens

One of the primary ways that Minneapolis residents can participate in renewable energy in the near future is through subscriptions in a Community Solar Garden (CSG). We’ve written about this option in detail on this website, including the cooperative model being created to include low-income households and focus on creating local jobs.

Tami Gunderzik XcelThrough a collaboration with the Lake Street Energy Challenge, MPLSGreen.com has worked alongside Tami Gunderzik, Xcel Energy. We’ve asked a series of questions about the upcoming CSG model in Minnesota from Xcel’s perspective. Here are responses to the first set of questions.

Q: How does the CSG program work from Xcel’s perspective?

Community Solar Gardens are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that can have both commercial and residential subscribers. They provide an alternative to invest in solar energy versus installing a solar system at your home or business. Subscribers will purchase or lease a portion of the solar PV system from a Community Solar Garden Operator.

Xcel Energy customers subscribing to a solar garden are eligible for an energy bill credit if the CSG they subscribe to is a participant in Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Community.

The Community Solar Garden Operator is responsible for working with Xcel Energy to meet the requirements of participating in this program. It is their responsibility to provide the appropriate engineering and installation information, pay the application fee, participation fee and deposit, pay the Generation Interconnection Application fee, provide subscriber information and pay the monthly metering charge for the CSG. These charges are designed to cover the costs Xcel Energy incurs with the Community Solar Garden so they don’t become expenses that are paid by rate-payers who don’t subscribe to the CSG.

Q: Are local jobs being created by this initiative?

There are a variety of different business models that Community Solar Garden Operators use in developing and operating CSGs. Any CSG subscriber will want to include “local job creation” in evaluating and selecting an operator if it is important to them. A subscription to a Community Solar Garden can be a long-term commitment and it is important to be fully informed before signing any contracts.

Q: Why does the CSG I invest in have to be bordering the county in which I live?

This is a requirement for CSGs in Minnesota Statutes 216B.1641. One of the more widely accepted attributes of a CSG is that it provides an investment option for local renewable energy. This requirement by the state supports that definition.

Q: How many CSG projects are currently under review by Xcel?

This can be found on our website. The “List of Garden Operators by County” under Information for Subscribers allows you to see the number of applications approved and the number going through the approval process.

Q: Is Xcel vetting the developers? If a project gets approved, does that mean the developer is safe for me to invest with?

Xcel Energy is not responsible for vetting any of the developers (Community Solar Garden Operators). All Operator applicants who meet the Community Solar Rewards requirements are treated equally. It is the responsibility of the subscriber to gather the information they feel is necessary to make a decision on where they would like to subscribe.

Resources

Gunderzik recommended these information resources about CSGs.

Xcel Website

DEED: an extensive study and stakeholder process

City of Minneapolis on renewable energy

Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS)

Minnesota Department of Energy Resources

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