Minnesota politicians held a news conference yesterday on the state capitol mall to provide an overview of recent legislation relating to solar energy projects. Minnesota has allocated $14.5 million in stimulus money for renewable energy projects, with a portion flagged for solar projects to encourage the installation and use of solar-powered systems. Another piece of legislation gives utilities the opportunity to double their commitments to solar energy projects under the Conservation Improvement Program currently in place. Representatives from Xcel Energy Inc. (Xcel), which serves more than 1.2 million customers in Minnesota, announced yesterday that they filed a $280 million plan with regulators to offer incentives for Minnesota customers to conserve energy, which could include installation of solar panels on homes and businesses.  Under Xcel’s proposed “Solar Rewards Program,” Xcel would provide rebates to customers who install solar photovoltaic systems of up to 40 kilowatts on their premises.