Solar Energy

Solar market posts big gains in Minnesota

Minnesota’s solar market grew significantly in the first quarter, adding 105 megawatts of power, the fifth most among states during that time, according to data released Tuesday.

Minnesota has a total of 849.5 megawatts of solar production, enough power for 116,670 homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade group.

A megawatt is 1 million watts, and by comparison Xcel Energy’s largest coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Minnesota each have a capacity of more than 600 megawatts (though they can operate continuously).

Minnesota now ranks 14th among states for total solar power, considerably higher than a couple of years ago. During 2018’s first quarter, Minnesota’s solar market grew 89 percent, according to GTM and SEIA’s report.

Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden program has been driving the state’s solar growth over the past year. Xcel Energy administers the program, which was created by the state Legislature in 2013. It is aimed at residents, businesses and governments that want solar energy without setting up their own rooftop solar arrays.

As of June 1, there were 105 community solar gardens operating in Minnesota, with a total capacity of 364 megawatts, according to Xcel. That compares to 25 sites with 80 megawatts a year ago.

Nationally, the solar market grew by 13 percent or 2.5 gigawatts during the first quarter, showing resiliency despite new tariffs on imported solar panels, according to GTM and SEIA.

Mike Hughlett

Food Companies

Report: Foreign firm may devour Schwan’s

A South Korean food giant may acquire Minnesota-based Schwan’s, according to recent reports from a Korean business news website and elsewhere.

CJ CheilJedang, a subsidiary of CJ Group, recently took part in a preliminary bidding process to acquire a U.S. food company for an estimated $2.8 billion, according to a report posted by the Investor, an English-language business news service in South Korea.

In a regulatory filing CheilJedang said: “We are considering acquiring a U.S. food processing company as part of our business expansion overseas but nothing has been decided yet,” according to the Investor.

The publication also reported that Charoen Pokphand Foods, of Thailand, took part in the bidding process. Charoen Pokphand Foods bought Minneapolis-based Bellisio Foods for $1.08 billion in 2016.

Schwan’s has declined to comment on its future.

Schwan’s reportedly has hired investment bank Piper Jaffray to look at options including a potential sale of the company. Sources said privately held Schwan’s could be worth up to $2.8 billion.

Schwan’s, founded in 1953 in Marshall, Minn., posted estimated 2017 sales of around $3 billion.

The company, which operates its corporate headquarters from Bloomington, includes home delivery of ice cream and frozen foods, as well as pizza brands such as Tony’s, Freschetta and Red Baron Pizza, Mrs. Smith’s pies and Edwards Desserts.

The Star Tribune reported last winter that Schwan’s faces increased competition from online-meal kit and grocery-delivery businesses. It’s also had to adjust to changing consumer preferences for fresh foods.

An acquisition of Schwan’s by CJ Group would diversify its product portfolio and retail network in the U.S., the Investor reported. It’s flagship Cheiljedang business, with U.S. operations based in Los Angeles, makes soy sauces, oils, prepared foods and ingredients and includes Korean brands such as Bibigo and Dasida.

It also manufactures Spam in South Korea, under agreement with Minnesota-based Hormel.

Neal St. Anthony

Small Business

Peace Coffee leads list of do-good businesses

Peace Coffee was one of several Minnesota companies named to the 2018 “Best for the World” list among 2,400 so-called “Certified B” corporations chartered to do business for the common good, according to the annual assessment of B Lab, a nonprofit consultant and analyst.

The 240 winners set a “gold standard” for how business can be a force for good in communities around the world. Peace Coffee made the list thanks to practices such as investing in low-income farmer cooperatives, forming long-term trading relationships, minimizing environmental impact by delivering coffee via bicycle, composting waste and using intermodal transit.

The other Minnesota companies include Last Triumph, the DataBank, CR-Building Performance Specialists, Global Gaming Initiative, Russell Herder and Sunrise Banks. The 226 winning companies on the Best For Community list come from 90 industries and 34 countries.

B Lab simultaneously released separate lists recognizing B Corporations as Best For The World Overall, Best For Environment, Best For Customers, Best For Governance and Best For Workers.

More information: bthechange.com/bestfortheworld.

Neal St. Anthony