In a landmark case, Eric Lipman, a Minnesota judge of administrative law, has decided that local power company Xcel Energy should invest in more solar power arrays instead of buying gas generators, according to the Star Tribune. The choice was made between several projects. One of the projects was solar, and the others were all based on gas units. In a competitive bidding process where Judge Lipman was asked to make a ruling over which project would go forward, the judge found the advantages that solar power has over gas, such as reduced pollution and cost effectiveness, would ultimately make it a cheaper energy option for the state. This is the first time in U.S. history that solar has beaten gas in a competition based on unsubsidized price.
"[The solar project] will have numerous socioeconomic benefits, minimal impacts on the environment and best supports Minnesota's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases," said Lipman.
Twenty solar panel arrays will be built across 17 counties to supply power to Xcel Energy at a cost of around $250 million. Some of the arrays will span 70 acres, and the largest will be five times larger the state's biggest array thus far.
Dubbed the Aurora Project, the planned installations will help Xcel Energy generate 1.5 percent of its power from the sun by 2020, a goal enforced under a new state law. Minnesota also requires that power companies derive 25 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2025.
The commercial solar installations will not qualify for any state or local subsidies, but they will qualify for federal tax credits.
"[Solar energy] has always been better for our environment," Greenpeace spokesman David Pomerantz told Al Jazeera. "Rulings like this one in Minnesota are proving that it's better for our pocketbooks too. Electric utilities around the country should embrace the solar revolution that their customers are increasingly demanding, or they risk becoming fossils themselves."
The Minnesota Solar Challenge
Minnesota is home to many innovative government programs to promote solar energy. One such program is the Minnesota Solar Challenge. The program offers various assistance and resources for projects having to do with solar. This is not only for industrial or commercial solar installation, but also for installing residential solar panels. For example, the Minnesota government works with the U.S. Department of Energy to offer a rooftop solar challenge for any rooftop, whether home or office. The number of people affected by the Rooftop Solar Challenge across the country was estimated at 147 million.
To learn more on how towns across the nation are benefiting by installing solar power systems, visit SunWize's website.