Minnesota Power raises solar incentives

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2012 - 9:37 PM

Duluth-based utility also will add a bonus for arrays made in Minnesota.

The electric utility serving northeastern and central Minnesota has added new incentives for customers who install solar-electric power arrays, including a made-in-Minnesota bonus.

Minnesota Power said Tuesday that its updated SolarSense program will rebate $1,000 per kilowatt (kW) to customers installing solar-electric technology manufactured in Minnesota. That's atop the existing base rebate of $2,000 per kilowatt. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.

Customers who also meet energy efficiency standards could get another $1,000 per kilowatt rebate on their solar array. Nonprofit and tax-exempt customers are eligible for an extra $500 per kilowatt-incentive.

Some solar incentive programs offered by the state's largest utility, Xcel Energy, and Minnesota have been so popular that they have run out of money. But Amy Rutledge, a Minnesota Power spokeswoman, said her company's solar program had been underused in the past.

The new incentives are about double what the utility previously offered, bringing them in line with Xcel's reward programs. Rutledge said the utility intends to set aside $346,000 for the program this year, pending regulatory approval.

Two manufacturers, TenKsolar in Bloomington and Silicon Energy in Mountain Iron, stand to benefit from the Minnesota-made incentive. Both sell high-end solar arrays that the companies say are better designed for northern climates.

Rutledge said all the Minnesota Power rebates will be paid immediately after installation. The utility also reduced the minimum array size to 5 kW, down from 10 kW, she said.

That means a modest-sized system could qualify for more than $20,000 in combined rebates and incentives, the utility said. A residential system can cost $30,000 or more before rebates.

Customers planning a solar project must submit an application and obtain approval from Minnesota Power before installing a system. Details about the program are on the company's website, which can be reached through startribune.com/a1068.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090

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