The Minnesota Department of Commerce said March 3 that the state could beat its goal for electricity generated by renewable energy ahead of schedule.
The department said the state generated 21% of its electricity from solar, wind, hydro, and biomass power in 2015—up from 6% a decade ago.
State lawmakers in 2007 adopted aggressive renewable energy goals, calling for Minnesota to produce 25% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025.
“Minnesota’s commitment to renewable energy is showing clear results,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Since 2005, Minnesota’s electric power generated from renewal sources has more than tripled. We have reduced our dependence on polluting coal that must be imported from outside the state, while increasing our own clean energy made right here in Minnesota. It’s a tremendous benefit for our energy sector, our economy and jobs, and our environment.”
Minnesota still got the bulk of its generation mix through fossil fuels in 2015 with coal leading the way with 44%, according to the state data.
According to 2015 year-end figures compiled by the Minnesota Commerce Department and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 17% of the state’s electricity was generated by wind energy, compared to just 3% in 2005. Meanwhile, coal-fired electricity dropped from 62% in 2005 to 44% in 2015.
Although it contributed less than one percent of the state’s electricity in 2015, solar energy is primed for dramatic growth. In 2016 alone, Minnesota’s solar power generation is expected to increase 15-fold.
Solar growth will come from rooftop panels, community solar and utility-scale projects. Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL), the state’s largest utility, estimates at least 250 MW will be installed in 2016 as part of its community solar garden program.
Several large-scale solar projects are under construction or development, including North Star Solar near North Branch (100 MW) and Aurora Solar at multiple locations (100 MW). ALLETE (NYSE:ALE) utility Minnesota Power recently received state approval for a 10 MW solar project at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.