Yesterday we reported on Minnesota's efforts to increase the use of solar power in the private sector by requiring utility companies to ensure that at least 1.5 percent of their power is derived from solar sources. It's a bold idea, but one that seems to be creating some interesting synergy between utility providers and private businesses in the state.
Fortune 500 company Ecolab has announced it will join the renewable energy initiative by going solar at its St. Paul, Minnesota offices. The company, which is a global leader in energy, hygiene and water technologies, has signed a deal with SunEdison to purchase enough solar power to offset 100 percent of the electricity used by the 2,500 employees that staff its St. Paul headquarters.
It's a another boost to local utility Xcel Energy's efforts to meet the 1.5 percent mandate, and the move will work nicely with the state's self-assigned clean energy goals, as well. Minnesota has one of the highest renewable energy targets in the country and looks to be off to an optimistic start in meeting that 31 percent minimum by 2020.
SunEdison says it will kick off the project with its 200 megawatt solar array construction, whichwill be located in the Twin City area. The so-called solar gardens will be spread over 15 to 20 sites and will be managed by Bethesda, Maryland-company Terraform Power.
Ecolab's contract for 16 megawatts will meet part of that goal, making it the first large company in Minnesota to go completely solar. And, as the anchor tenant for that investment, it will provide a platform for other smaller investors to get involved. According to state law, there must be at least five subscribers involved in a given solar garden, and each garden must be no more than 1 megawatt in capacity. Ecolab's plan to go solar means not only a complement to Minnesota's renewable energy commitment, but also an encouraging boost to small business investment in the state.
Image of St. Paul, MN: Tony Webster
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.