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Minnesota exploring ways to cut red tape for solar installations, streamline permitting process

August 03, 2012

For Immediate Release

ST. PAUL, MN – A new effort is underway in Minnesota to put solar power on the fast track in communities statewide. A partnership known as the Minnesota Solar Challenge is focused on streamlining solar electric permitting processes and improving solar zoning regulations across Minnesota.

Commissioner Mike Rothman announced a key milestone in that program today, as the state’s Commerce Department selected the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES) to coordinate outreach efforts for the Minnesota Solar Challenge. In this new role, MRES will work directly with local governments to help simplify regulations and permitting processes for solar electric installation in Minnesota homes and businesses.

“Expanding Minnesota’s solar capacity is essential to the development of our new energy economy and meeting the goals of our nation-leading Renewable Energy Standard,” said Commissioner Rothman. “A critical part of that effort is working together with local leaders to change existing permitting or zoning barriers standing in the way of solar development, one community at a time.”

The Minnesota Solar Challenge is one project among 22 nationwide that received federal funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Rooftop Solar Challenge. The Minnesota team is a collaboration of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Fresh Energy, and Xcel Energy. 

The program will provide support for communities across Minnesota interested in improving their solar energy capacity, development, and installation. It will bring together city, county, and state officials, regulatory entities, private industry, local utilities, and other stakeholders to reduce obstacles to solar installations and to serve as a model for other communities across the country.

“Minnesota already benefits from more than 8 megawatts of solar capacity, but we can and must do more,” said Rothman. “The Minnesota Department of Commerce, and the entire Minnesota Solar Challenge team, is excited to work with MRES to identify best practices, reduce permitting delays, and give solar power a boost in our state.”

MRES, led by its Managing Director Laura Cina, will team with independent consultant Brian Ross of CR Planning and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs). CR Planning will provide technical assistance to local governments on permitting and zoning issues. CERTs will lead outreach and education efforts and recruit cities and counties to participate in the program.

“We are excited to join the Solar Challenge team and help Minnesota tap its vast solar potential,” said Cina. “We are ready to provide the technical assistance and the best practices needed to streamline solar installation.”

Minnesota communities interested in receiving direct technical assistance with implementing solar energy best practices are encouraged to contact MRES or the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Communities interested in receiving assistance can contact Laura Cina directly at laurac@mnrenewables.org. Information on the Minnesota Solar Challenge, including a Solar Technical Assistance Helpline, is available here.

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More About the Rooftop Solar Challenge
The Rooftop Solar Challenge is part of the DOE SunShot Initiative, which is a collaborative national effort to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. 

Reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent will drive widespread large-scale adoption of solar—fortifying U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race while spurring new industries and job creation across the nation. 

Non-hardware costs such as permitting, installation, design, and maintenance currently account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of installed rooftop PV systems in the United States.  Lowering these costs is an important part of expanding the solar energy industry, creating new jobs for American workers, improving U.S. energy security, and providing clean, renewable energy for American families and businesses.