Minnesota “Solar Gardens”: A Model for Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, and Elsewhere?

Minnesota is the fourth state that I have now biked through and they are heavily invested into solar energy facilities — there are dozens and dozens of solar sites located along the exurbs of the Twin Cities region (i.e., energy in close proximity to the users).  Much of this investment stems from the “Solar Garden” program.  In brief, a resident, business, municipality… can enter into a “Sunscription” to subscribe to the energy produced at a “Solar Garden” in their county or an adjoining county, while at the same time saving money on their long-term electricity bill.  Basically, you purchase an ownership share in a solar garden through a 25-year, portable and transferrable contract and then receive a credit, starting at $0.1531 per kW h.  In essence, you are getting your energy from solar, but somebody else is designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining those solar facilities on your behalf.

My colleague and alumnus of the Geological Engineering Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matt Wessale, indicates that he will save approximately 20% on his electricity bill by sunscribing to this program.  What’s not to love — investing in clean, renewable energy that is generated locally and saving money at the same time!?!?

Gratitude out to Matt Wessale for hosting me on a tour of various solar installations in the Waconia region and then the great BBQ and pontoon excursion on Lake Waconia last night.  Cheers out also to Sam Jorgensen, Adam McDaniel, Chris Enos, Levi Mitchell, and other UW alumni that now work for Westwood Engineering, a leading consultant and contractor in renewable energy balance-of-plant investigation, design, and field services.  Westwood Engineering is one of our major corporate sponsors of the #SolarParaNinos campaign with Engineers without Borders, UW-Madison Chapter.  ON WISCONSIN!!!


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