Municipalities should remove red tape to encourage solar
Virginia Rutter, Solar United Neighbors Photo orange background
Image courtesy of Virginia Rutter


Published by MinnPost April 13, 2018 Virginia Rutter, Program Director for Solar United Neighbors of Minnesota   Minnesotans can be proud that our state is a leader in deploying solar energy. Solar provides clean, local, cost-effective electricity that can empower people to take control of their energy sources. Despite our leadership in this area, there’s much more that can and should be done to make solar accessible to all Minnesotans.   If our communities would streamline administrative regulations, we could lower the cost of going solar by as much as $500 for a typical home rooftop system. Streamlining regulations can attract more economic development and jobs to communities as well. According to the Solar Foundation, Minnesota has 4,256 solar jobs. Half of these are in installation. Increasing the rooftop solar market would boost these jobs, particularly in outstate communities.   The solar permitting process is designed to ensure systems are properly installed, but the variety of permitting rules across municipalities makes it harder for installers to implement quality systems. It adds time and expense to the process of going solar because installers have to develop systems to deal with each jurisdiction’s rules. More than half the cost of going solar comes not from the panels or other equipment but from “soft costs,” like permitting. If municipalities streamline the permitting process for rooftop solar, it would save time and money for all involved.   The actual installation of solar panels on a home only takes 1-2 days, but the process of going solar can last several months. First, your solar installer will work with you to design a system for your home. Once you sign a contract for that system, the installer will need to apply for permits. Once your system is installed, your local municipality will inspect it to ensure that it is up to local code. The installer will request permission to interconnect it to your utility’s electric grid. Once you receive permission, your system can start producing electricity.   My nonprofit organization, Solar United Neighbors, helps thousands of people a year go solar. We work closely with homeowners and installers through bulk purchasing groups we call “solar co-ops” to help people learn about solar and have it installed at their homes. This work has taught us first-hand the burdens that permitting can place on solar installation.   Fortunately, there are several things municipalities can do to make it easier to go solar. They should make a checklist that details their solar permitting process publicly available. This allows installers and homeowners to know beforehand what to expect when submitting a permit, so that they are sure to include all the necessary items for that municipality. Municipalities should also provide a streamlined permitting pathway for small solar systems with turn-around time of no more than three days. These two items can reduce the costs to homeowners, since there will be less time expended by installers, as well as less city staff time to review solar applications.   Work to streamline the permitting process has already begun across our state. Eleven Minnesota municipalities have taken advantage of a great federal program to improve access to solar and boost local solar markets. The Sol Smart program provides free technical assistance to communities to evaluate local programs and practices and identify opportunities for improvement. Interested municipalities can contact the Metropolitan Council, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, and Great Plains Institute for assistance here in Minnesota.   These common-sense actions will show that our local governments encourage and support locally-generated clean energy and greater access to solar for all.
GP JOULE Breaks Ground in Minnesota’s Community Solar Market
Lake Waconia 2.7 MW Solar Array Aerial View
Image courtesy of GP Joule


Global renewable energy company deploys integrated PV solutions to deliver lowest total installed cost for six PV systems in the North Star state   TORONTO, ON, Canada – April 10th, 2018. GP JOULE Canada Corp., a subsidiary of GP JOULE GmbH, announced today that it has successfully completed six utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects through its U.S. operations, totaling 12 megawatts (MW) in Minnesota. In two of these projects, the company combined its EPC expertise in the north with its proprietary single-axis tracker technology to streamline design, supply and installation. Systems were engineered, constructed and brought online in under 8 months, with the majority of the installation taking place during challenging winter conditions.     “Leveraging our deep experience deploying systems throughout Canada, we are well positioned to support solar developers facing extreme winter conditions in the Midwest and the Northeast,” said David Pichard, GP JOULE Canada VP and COO. “These systems were installed under enormous time pressure in the toughest environments, demonstrating our expertise in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering and precise project management.”   GP JOULE supplied its PHLEGON® single-axis tracker on two sites in Webster and New Germany, offering a vertically-integrated solution for utility PV projects. Designed specifically for harsh climates and challenging sites, the PHLEGON® tracker uses heavy-duty linear actuators that intelligently integrate sophisticated German-engineered control systems. This technology contends with heavy snow and high winds to ensure production 365 days a year. Cost-effective PHLEGON® utilizes up to 50 percent fewer piles than competing trackers, has the lowest fastener count and offers the easiest ground maintenance access in the industry.   “We are committed to delivering the lowest total installed cost,” said Pichard. “By integrating EPC services with a cost-effective tracking solution, we can support profitability in burgeoning small utility markets like the Minnesota Community Solar movement.”   GP JOULE has an upcoming solar industry event April 30 in Minneapolis that will showcase its expertise building PV in tough northern climates. The “True North Solar Tour” will explore a freshly commissioned 1.3 MW solar farm in Webster. Participants will gain insights on how to optimize solar power plant construction and boost energy productivity in northern markets. Registration is required.   About GP JOULE   GP JOULE is a global renewable energy company with an extensive track record developing, engineering, constructing, operating, and financing commercial and utility-scale renewable projects. In the North American market, GP JOULE provides a full range of PV products and services focused on delivering the lowest installed cost. GP JOULE’s complete in-house and local execution team includes civil, mechanical, and electrical expertise.     Globally, GP JOULE has installed over 500 MWs of PV projects and manages 600 MWs of assets across Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and the United States. Find out more about how we execute profitable turnkey PV projects at