The cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. Before making a large or long-term investment in renewable power, make sure you’ve taken advantage of all of the cost-effective energy efficiency in your home. A good place to start is scheduling a home energy audit for personalized information to make your home more energy efficient.
Renewable energy programs
Many electric utilities offer renewable energy programs. For example, Xcel Energy customers can join its Windsource program, Minnesota Power customers can join WindSense, and Otter Tail Power customers can join TailWinds to get all or a portion of their power from wind. Xcel Energy is also now offering a program to get power from a blend of wind and solar in their Renewable*Connect program.
Contact your utility to find out if they offer something similar.
“Community solar” is taking off in Minnesota — especially in Xcel Energy territory, thanks to recent legislation. Community solar gardens are owned by private companies, electric utilities, or other organizations. Individuals or businesses can then buy shares or subscriptions in community solar gardens. Community solar is an option for renters, people whose properties are shaded or can’t support solar panels, or others who can’t or prefer not to install their own solar panels.
Community solar programs vary widely and many require you to sign a multi-decade contract, so it’s important to make sure you understand the fine print.
For more on community solar and questions you should ask before signing up, check out our community solar guide.
Rooftop solar and small wind
Residents and businesses may operate their own power generation equipment to serve their electricity needs. The electric utility will connect your equipment to the power lines and compensate you for the power produced.
In recent decades, some farmers have installed small wind turbines on their property. Now, more people are installing solar panels. As rooftop solar grows in popularity, some utilities are experienced in connecting installations to the power grid, while others are still new to the process. It’s important to check with your local government about potential regulations regarding the location of energy generation.