Xcel Energy announced Wednesday that 40 community solar gardens are up and running, passing the 100-megawatt threshold for electricity production.
The Community Solar Garden program was created by the legislature and launched in 2014. It’s aimed at bringing solar energy to residents and businesses who don’t want the expense and complications of building their own solar arrays.
The program got off to a slow start, delayed by a flood of applications and disputes between Xcel and solar developers. Xcel had once projected that 200 megawatts of solar garden power would be online by the end of 2016. Instead, only around 50 megawatts were running. (A megawatt is one million watts).
But an increasing number of community solar gardens have been switched on this year. Xcel says 139 megawatts of power are online. Projects generating up to 200 more megawatts could be completed by 2017’s end.
Nearly 180 community solar garden projects are in the design and construction phase, the company says, and they will continue rolling out in 2018. The state’s solar garden program, which is exclusive to Xcel’s Minnesota territory, is the largest of its kind in the country.
“This is a significant moment for the solar industry,” Chris Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota, said in a press statement. “We are well on our way to delivering a third of our energy from renewables by 2030, and solar plays a role in achieving that ambitious goal.”
Wind power by far provides the bulk of Xcel’s renewable energy, but solar is growing. Aside from the solar garden program, the Minneapolis-based company is getting power in Minnesota from three large solar projects, two of which each deliver 100 megawatts, while a third puts out 62 megawatts.