The University of Minnesota has announced it is tapping into a new source of power. With the recent approval from the university’s board of regents, the institution’s Twin Cities campus will purchase 2 MW of community solar garden subscriptions from Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy LLC.
“This is an important step for the university and our sustainability efforts,” said Shane Stennes, the university’s director of sustainability. “We anticipate significant savings of nearly $800,000 over the 25-year contract while supporting the development of new renewable energy resources in the state of Minnesota.”
Currently being built in Dakota County, the community solar garden will produce electricity and renewable energy certificates to be provided to utility Xcel Energy. The university will pay Geronimo fees based on the amount of the subscription and the actual production from the solar garden. The university will then receive credits from Xcel on the university’s electric bill based upon the production of the solar garden and the university’s subscription share of the garden.
The university says it has been exploring renewable energy opportunities as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. Most recently, this work has focused on accessing the emerging Minnesota solar energy market.
In 2015, the university hired Eutectics, a local clean energy advisor, to assist the university in assessing risk and determining financial feasibility of purchasing solar electricity through various mechanisms. At the same time, the university’s Energy Transition Lab and Institute on the Environment collaborated with three other Midwestern universities and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project called “The Solar Endowment: A PV Investment Roadmap for U.S. Universities and Foundations.” The project created teams of students that worked with university staff and faculty to evaluate solar potential, to develop financial models for solar, and to organize campus outreach.
The university says it is currently pursuing other renewable options in addition to the community solar subscription. Recently, the institution submitted a letter of support to the Public Utilities Commission for Xcel Energy’s Renewable*Connect pilot program. The proposed program will allow Xcel customers to designate that a portion of their electricity come from a blend of wind and solar resources. The university says it also plans to release a request for proposals for on-campus solar installations at four of its campuses.