Uncertainty has been baked into a Minnesota farmers way of life for a long time. Fortunately, a new solution has emerged recently -- but red tape is getting in the way of allowing more farmers to benefit.
At IPS Solar, a local solar company that works on projects across the state, I’ve been fortunate enough to help hundreds of landowners create a more certain future for their families, by leasing their land to build a solar garden.
Minnesota boasts the most successful community solar garden program in the country. And Red Wing is home to one of the single biggest community solar gardens in the state. Our company was proud to build a 6-megawatt garden for the Red Wing School District back in 2016. For the district, who leased their marginal farmland to that project, and many other landowners throughout Goodhue County, they found a new, stable crop.
Saying yes to solar created construction jobs for people here in the county, and it added new clean energy to the power grid throughout Goodhue County. Solar gardens also mean a stable paycheck for landowners like Andy Huneke near Zumbrota, who hosts two projects. In addition to a stable paycheck, leasing your land for solar pays more than traditional agricultural crops like soybeans. That helps minimize risk, and ensures a stronger retirement for Andy in the future.
These solar gardens represent neighbors helping neighbors, as the clean solar power goes to customers who seek out a subscription for solar energy.
But here’s where the problem lies. In Minnesota, the community solar program isn’t available for many landowners due to bureaucratic red tape -- a restriction limiting subscribers by their county of residence. Compared to other programs across the country, this rule is unique to our state. A bill being discussed at the Legislature this spring could change that.
Clean energy is the new cash crop for farmers across the state – let’s make sure everyone has the power to create their own certain future.