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You might wonder if you own your share of a project or if you're just leasing it when you subscribe. If you subscribe to a community solar garden, it means you are renting from the facility owner a portion of a solar energy it produces (Minnesota Statutes 216B.1641, subd. h and Minnesita Statutes 216B.164, subd. 10k).
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Community Shared Solar or Community Solar Gardens (which are the same thing) specifically refer to projects "whereby subscribers (at least 5) receive a bill credit for the electricity generated in proposition to the size of their subscription."
However, solar has been seen as a catalyst for folks to use less energy, because they start to focus on ways they can save energy to make their solar go further. Hopefully participation in community-solar will also serve that function.
If, however, you move to a different utility territory, to a non-adjacent county, or to a different state, you could no longer participate in the same solar garden. Your options would be to (a) sell your subscription back at fair market value, (b) donate it to a non-profit, or (c) transfer it to another family member.
Your solar garden operator keeps track of subscriptions and will handle the customer care role of processing any necessary changes.
The great opportunity with community solar gardens is that anyone, or any group, can come together to kick-start a project. A congregation, a local government, a school, a community group or any group of customers can come together to develop a community solar garden. Agralite Electric Cooperative, Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Inc., Beltrami Cooperative, Connexus Energy, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Services, Kandiyohi Power Coop, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, McLeod Cooperative Power, Minnesota Power (proposed), Moorhead Public Service, People's Energy Cooperative, Redwood Electric Cooperative, Runestone Electric Association, South Central Electric Cooperative, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Stearns Electric Association, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, and Xcel Energy have existing programs. Potential participants in other territories will need to work with their local utilities to move a project forward. Once a project is available, participants can sign on if they are a member/customer of a utility and located in the same county where a project is located, or the adjacent county. In plain English, that means you can subscribe to a project in Xcel Energy territory located in Hennepin County as long as you are an Xcel Energy Customer and live in either Hennepin County or any of its surrounding counties (i.e., Ramsey, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Wright, Sherburne, or Anoka). Again, if there isn't a project close to you, then you can serve as the catalyst to kick start one.
We never recommend one entity over another, but we pose questions a group or individual ought to ask of a potential developer:
- Do they have staying power to be around for the next 25 years? What is their background, and do they have the right experience?- Who will be the entity to conduct the maintenance on the system? Has the contractor or developer set aside enough money to do on-going work?- Have they secured the insurance for the project and covered all of their legal bass to move a project forward?- Is this developer willing to listen to your interests and motivations and use those to tailor the project?
Others could also play host, like a closed landfill, or a brownfield. Ideally you do not want to take up "green space" or prime agricultural land that could have a higher value used elsewhere.
Another consideration to keep in mind: a 1 MW project can require an area with either 3-8 acres of land or 100,000 sq feet of roof space (ideally a new roof).
You also need to make sure you're in it for the long haul. If you want to lease your roof space to a project, you'll need to do that for 25 years at minimum, and be an entity that will be around for 25 years to stick to the agreement.
If you have questions about the tax implications of participating in a project, you should seek professional tax advise.