Few things are as frustrating to a Community Solar Garden owner or operator as a garden going offline with little notice. Planned outages can put a feeder line with multiple Community Solar Gardens (CSGs) offline for months. Recently Xcel Energy scheduled a ten-week outage for seventeen 1MW projects in order to upgrade the relevant substation for a new garden on the same feeder. To work out an equitable solution, Xcel reached out to MnSEIA, and we organized a conference call between all the developers impacted—both gardens that would be subject to outage and those behind in the queue.

MnSEIA negotiated an equitable solution: the existing gardens would pool resources to build a new line that would bypass the existing line while it was upgraded. This new line will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, for subscribers, garden operators, and creditors.

While some of MnSEIA’s work to mitigate planned outage impacts has been on a case-by-case basis, we have worked toward a systemic fix to prevent outage crises in the future.

MnSEIA’s efforts have driven Xcel to commit to improvement of communication of outage start date and time, and duration—and to demonstrate mitigation efforts for each planned outage. You can read more about planned outage harm mitigation in docket 13-867, and in Xcel’s recent filing here.

Further solutions may include better planning and testing, utility compensation measures, the payment by new gardens for other outages, extending contract terms by the length of the outage, and technical fixes. Those solutions will be pursued both through the SRC workgroup, and through existing MPUC dockets. We are optimistic we can make meaningful change on this issue sometime this year. In the meantime, MnSEIA’s work on a case-by-case manner to help reduce outage costs will continue.