In the past, “going solar” was out of reach for many Minnesotans. It required them to have the funds—and the right rooftop—to invest in installing solar panels.
But now, there’s an easy, cheap way for consumers to get solar energy and save money on their Xcel Energy bills. It’s even available to renters.
Consumers can now sign up free of charge to access power generated at local solar farms on their behalf. Electricity produced by “their” solar farm goes on to the local power grid. Then consumers earn solar credits and apply them to their monthly electric utility bill for the savings.
Those savings can be helpful in managing monthly utility costs that are on the rise. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Xcel Energy rates have increased 33% over the last 15 years.
CleanChoice Energy, which manages Minnesota solar farms, estimates that consumers who sign up will save 5 to 10% of their electricity costs, with the average subscriber saving approximately $100 per year.
“It sounds complicated but it’s really not a hassle to figure it out,” said Adam Powers, Community Solar group manager for Clean Choice Energy.
“It takes less than three minutes to sign up and enroll to get the solar credits. We have already credited millions of dollars back to customers in Minnesota.”
Joining Community Solar increases the number of people who can use solar energy. Membership does not require consumers to purchase panels or other equipment and involves no construction or maintenance. Membership is even available for consumers who live in shaded areas with no clear view of the sky.
“We know that 75 percent of American households lack the ability to put solar panels on their roof. But it’s possible for them to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of solar,” Power said.
Community Solar can be accessed by renters as well as homeowners; once enrolled, consumers can take their membership with them if they move to a new address.
After enrolling for Community Solar, monthly utility billing will look different. Consumers continue to receive their monthly Xcel Energy bills and will apply solar credits, which reduce their electricity costs. They will also get a bill from CleanChoice Energy for the cost of the solar credits at a discounted rate. The savings are in the difference between the two bills.
Using local Community Solar promotes clean, renewable energy and reduces reliance on fossil fuels.
“This option allows people to save the environment while they’re saving money. The financial benefit pulls them in but they can make a positive contribution with renewable energy and get paid for it,” Powers said.