Welcome to the Stoel Rives Community Solar blog topic page!

Archived here are all our posts covering U.S. community solar developments, with particular emphasis on the Minnesota solar community garden program (disclaimer, we have and continue to represent clients in the MnPUC community solar garden docket).

Our lead authors on community solar are:

Brian Nese | Andrew Moratzka | Sara Bergan | Adam Schurle | Emma Fazio

Xcel announced this morning that it plans to open its Community Solar Garden program next Friday, December 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM CST. In its filing, the company attempts to clarify the “first-ready, first-served” application process it plans to follow. The company explains that Garden operators can view a time stamp marking when the application

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission today issued its long-awaited Order approving (with modifications) Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program – Solar Rewards*Community.  The Order starts the clock for the program to open no later than 90 days from issuance of the Order (mid-December) and officially plows the furrow for community solar projects in Minnesota.  It is not, however, clear that Xcel Energy will have the luxury of using the full 90 days for opening its CSG program- the Minnesota CSG Statute requires Xcel Energy to begin crediting subscriber accounts for each CSG within 180 days of the CSG plan’s approval. Stay tuned for additional details.

Our prior blogs provide more details on the program. We review the details of the Order below.

Application: Once applicants file their applications and deposits, Xcel has 30 days to confirm the application is complete and then another 60 days to accept or reject the application. Applicants initially need to include:

  • Contact information,
  • Garden information including system location and specifications,
  • Application fee ($1,200) and deposit ($100/kW)
  • Engineering documents, including one-line diagrams, site plan, and Interconnection Application

Applicants will have a full 24 months from Xcel’s completeness determination to complete the project and comply with several additional requirements including: proof of site control, adequate insurance, projection of subscriptions, and signed interconnection and CSG agreements.
Continue Reading Minnesota Community Solar Garden Program Approved, Set to Open

Yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”) approved Xcel Energy’s first Minnesota-based Community Solar Garden (CSG) program. After Xcel’s initial program filing was rejected by the MPUC in April, Xcel filed a revised CSG tariff with the MPUC in June. In a related filing, Xcel also argued that a  value of solar (“VOS”) rate for

On July 1, 2014, the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to create a CPAU-branded Community Solar Program. According to CPAU, "the primary objectives for the program are 1) to help facilitate reaching the City’s target of meeting 4% of its energy needs from local solar energy by 2023 (from 0.7% in 2013)

Yesterday afternoon, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the methodology for calculating value of solar (VOS) tariffs in Minnesota as developed by the Department of Commerce. In doing so, Minnesota became the first in the nation to adopt a VOS tariff methodology.

The Commission was required by statute to take action on the VOS calculation methodology by the end of the month. It had three options: to approve it as proposed, reject it, or approve it with modifications and with the consent of the Department. For background on the Department’s January 31st recommendation, see our blog posts here and here. The Department subsequently included several modifications affecting the fuel price escalation factor, the avoided distribution capacity cost, and the environmental cost categories.

In its ruling, the Commission approved the Department’s methodology, as amended, by a 3-2 vote.Continue Reading Value of Solar Achieves a New Dawn in Minnesota

After a full day of hearing arguments on Xcel’s proposed Community Solar Garden (CSG) program (see more on that here), the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission deliberated in public on the issue yesterday and made some important modifications to Xcel’s proposal. The program would allow Xcel customers to invest in off-site solar facilities and receive

Final comments were filed yesterday on the proposed methodology for calculating a value of solar (VOS) rate for utilities in Minnesota (more on the proposed methodology is here). With the Commission required to make a decision within 60 days of January 31, 2014, parties remain in fairly wide disagreement about what is required by statute, particularly what values are truly “known and measurable” and whether the value calculation or proposition applies to the particular utility or more broadly to society. Depending on the interpretation of these factors among others, the estimated  VOS rate could vary from half of that suggested by the Department’s original $0.135/kWh example to something considerably higher. The rate would eventually apply to Xcel’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program and potentially as an alternative to net-metering arrangements for projects under 1MW. In a separate proceeding yesterday, the Commission set interim rates for the CSG program that could be even higher with a placeholder SREC value included (more on that in a separate blog).
Continue Reading Viewpoints Diverge on the Value of Solar in Minnesota

by Sara Bergan and Sarah Johnson Phillips

In May 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that, among other things, set a solar standard, directed Xcel Energy to develop a community solar garden program, and provided for the development of an alternative tariff mechanism to net metering that would also serve as the rate for community solar garden programs. Under this new scenario and instead of traditional net-metering arrangements, customers would potentially buy all of their electricity from their local distribution utility and then sell all of their PV generation under that utility’s Value of Solar (VOS) tariff which would be designed to capture the societal value of PV-generated electricity.

The legislation directed the Department of Commerce to work with stakeholders to develop a VOS methodology and to deliver its recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) on Friday, January 31, 2014.  The Department’s filing today includes its recommendation, with a more in-depth document addressing the methodology.  The  Department’s recommendations do not set a rate, but rather propose the methodology for calculating a utility-specific rate for distributed PV solar (1 MW and smaller). If the Department’s sample calculation is any indicator of what’s to come, however, the value went from $0.126/kWh in its initial draft to $0.135/kWh in the documents filed this morning.Continue Reading What is the Value of Solar? Minnesota Agency Starts to Answer. . .