Thinking of installing solar panels on your home, garage, or business? Folks in the know about solar urge consumers to get on it sooner than later, in order to take advantage of declining federal tax credits for doing so.
In the suburbs of St. Anthony and Columbia Heights, staff say they’ve issued a few building permits, required there for the installations. In St. Anthony, ten were issued last year and three so far this year. In the larger Northeast Minneapolis area, it’s not uncommon to see solar company promotional signs in customers’ yards.
Ben Durrant, who lives in the Logan Park neighborhood, took the leap in May 2020. “Our house is old (1901), and pretty big (2,400+ square feet). We had a big maple in the back yard that kept solar from being viable, but when it got sick and had to be removed we checked again,” he said. “Our garage roof faces south so we were able to do panels on just that area and get pretty good coverage.”
“Solar is retaining equity, rather than giving it away to the industry,” says Ryan Buege, director of marketing for All Energy Solar, a Minnesota-based company that provides and installs the panels. “There are solar panels in every single zip code. St. Anthony Village and the Northeast neighborhoods are popular areas for solar installs.”
There are many ways to analyze the number of years it takes to pay back the still significant up-front cost in energy savings down the road.
Once a consumer decides to pursue whether it would work for them, their house receives an individual assessment in terms of how much sun it receives, including satellite assessments of how the sun strikes the house to find the most efficient angle to get the most power.
The solar company will do this assessment, but if you want a preview, an app can be found on the City of Minneapolis website. Go to http://www2.minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/buildings-energy/solar and click on “find my solar suitability.”
Durrant said, “One of my favorite parts about having solar panels is being able to check how much energy it’s producing on a daily basis. I can compare this chart to any other day or week and see whether it’s up or down. I really enjoy being able to monitor this on my phone.” It works year-round. Sun coverage can affect solar power. “There will likely be more sun in the summer compared to the winter, but there are still plenty of sunny days in every season.”
There are tax credit incentives for switching to solar, but Buege of All Energy Solar said incentives are dropping from 26% to 22% in the next year. “Solar is disruptive to the modern economy and cuts out the middle person. There has been improved technology over the past 35 years, and it’s predictable and bankable on the sun.” Unused energy is automatically sold to Xcel Energy for a credit on the consumer’s bill.
Durrant has no regrets about installing solar panels. “I would definitely recommend this to my neighbors, I think it’s a no-brainer. It’s a long-term investment that in my mind is clearly where things are going. In seven or eight years I’ll be able to make everything back from my initial down payment for the panels. Even if money is the only reason for someone to get solar panels, it’s still a good investment. The install took less than two days and was almost entirely done from the exterior of the house, they only needed to come inside once.”
The Minneapolis Sustainability Office website noted above also includes links to the various incentive programs, including some for commercial and multi-family, links to help find an installer, and links to case studies and general information about solar power.
Another source which gives general information and represents several solar installation vendors is https://www.solar-estimate.org/residential-solar/solar-panels/minnesota.
Below: Ben Durrant’s garage on Monroe Street gets enough clear sunshine to make it worth putting solar panels on the roof. Durrant, at right, believes he’ll recoup the cost in seven or eight years of energy savings. (Photos by Nik Linde)