If you drive around the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, you may see a number of changes to the landscape including the construction of a number of solar arrays.  Because the Minnesota Legislature enacted a renewable energy bill in 2013, the state has experienced an explosion of Community Solar Gardens (CSGs).  A CSG is a centrally-located solar energy collection system that provides electricity to subscribers. You can think of a CSG a lot like a community vegetable garden where you can grow fresh veggies in a garden centrally located in your neighborhood. Like a community vegetable garden, if you don’t have space or the sun resource in your yard for a solar array for your power, you can subscribe to a CSG to purchase renewable energy if you are in a participating utility in Minnesota.

The CSG is a one megawatt (MW) energy producing facility.   One MW can power roughly 164 homes.  Homeowners and businesses can subscribe to a CSG.  Subscribers can benefit from reduced energy costs and also be a part of supporting a clean energy economy.  CSGs have been located on land that is approximately 10-30 acres in size.  Developers have been seeking locations that may involve land that is less than desirable for other development such as older quarries, marginal farm land, or other such areas.

The CSGs also provide a great place to plant pollinator habitat.  Rather than having a gravel or hard surface under the panels, vegetation can be planted.  Many solar developers have taken the “Pollinator Pledge” that states that those projects will plant vegetation that supports insects such as bees and butterflies to provide additional environmental benefits (for more information see the article Encouraging Pollinators).  The vegetation also allows stormwater runoff from the site to be absorbed back into the ground rather than running off in to local ditches, streams, and lakes.

Overall, Community Solar Gardens help to generate clean energy, reduce stormwater runoff and pollution, provide pollinator habitat, and can provide savings for your energy bills.

For more information, check out these sites:

http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/solargardens

https://solarstonepartners.com/

https://www.xcelenergy.com/programs_and_rebates/residential_programs_and_rebates/renewable_energy_options_residential/solar/available_solar_options/community-based_solar