Three years ago when we had solar panels installed on our roof, we did it because we thought it was the “right thing to do.” We had just decided to retire right here where we’ve lived for two decades and we were thinking ahead. We haven’t regretted it. Last month our solar panels met 92% of our energy needs. And we’re still using our clothes dryer, dishwasher, and other energy hogs. In the winter, of course, it’s a lot less, but overall, the sun gives us about a third of our electricity. We think solar is good for homeowners and for communities.
Solar offers great potential for economic growth in northern Minnesota. Not only does solar provide energy security and a fixed energy cost for families, it also helps create good local jobs. Minnesota added 1,384 solar jobs in 2017, a 48% growth over the past year. Heliene plans to add more jobs to the factory in Mountain Iron with the new loan from the IRRRB, adding an additional 130 jobs to the facility this year. Increasing rooftop solar installations can also boost local jobs.
There’s a new nonprofit organization in Minnesota that is helping people go solar. Solar United Neighbors provides education and technical assistance to homeowners and small businesses who are interested their own solar array. Installing solar now costs about half of what it did just five years ago, so it is a more affordable option. Solar United Neighbors offers support through every step of the installation process. They also facilitate bulk purchase groups, or “solar co-ops,” with communities all across Minnesota, to help people get the best value on their solar installation. Solar co-op participants decide which installer to select through an open, competitive bidding process. Solar United Neighbors is installer-neutral and provides consumer protection throughout the process; they are there to make sure everyone gets a quality installation.
We are launching an effort for local residents who are interested in learning more about rooftop solar. The Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability, Clean Energy Resource Teams, and the City of Mountain Iron are partnering with Solar United Neighbors of Minnesota to form the Iron Range Solar Co-op. The first information session will be on October 16 at 7 pm, at the Mountain Iron Community Center, Iroquois Room. Join us!