Minnesota solar gap?
Posted at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2011
by Mark Steil
What could be simpler than turning sunlight into electricity? Apparently, many things. Among them: turning wind into electricity, turning coal into electricity and turning atoms into electricity.
Solar power is talked about a lot as part of the solution to the nation's energy problems, but so far it hasn't made much of a dent in our total electricity supply.
A coalition of groups in Minnesota plans to boost efforts to generate energy through solar power. Ken Bradley, director of the Environment Minnesota organization, says their idea would create jobs and reduce pollution, while at the same time spread the solar energy message all across the state.
Bradley wants the state to adopt a hard goal: that 10 percent of Minnesota's electricity come from solar power by 2030.
"We know that we have a reliable resource that everyday is going to be there for us," says Bradley.
Right now Minnesota is far behind other states in solar power production. The Minnesota output is about 3 megawatts a year, enough electricity to supply about 800 homes. The very largest wind turbines put out about 2.5 megawatts.
So Minnesota's total yearly solar output is little more than one big wind turbine. California, the nation's solar leader, produces 250 times as much sun power as Minnesota, more than 700 megawatts.
Bradley says the 10 percent by 2030 can be accomplished. He says the goal would be about 5,200 megawatts of solar electricity in 20 years. To do that, he thinks the state should try to add about 53 megawatts a year for the next 10 years, then ramp production up sharply in the final 10 years.
The solar question will be the subject of next week's "Green Ideas and Ham" breakfast forum in Minneapolis. The forum is a monthly meeting to discuss the state's most pressing environmental issues. The solar meeting is next Wednesday, January 19, at 8 am at the Red Stag Supperclub in northeast Minneapolis.