Minnesota Solar Pathways

Josh Quinnell, Ph.D., Mike Bull, Jenny Edwards, Rabi Vandergon

Project Update

The modeling tool, with CEE’s input into building energy profiles, is largely finished, and will eventually be available to the public. The second part of CEE’s work focuses on distributing those building profiles proportionately throughout the state by zip code. Read the full update. 

Previous update: The final Solar Potential Analysis report is now available. Download it now. Work is ongoing for the second phase, Solar Development Strategies. 

Why this research is needed

Minnesota currently maintains a high-cost dependency on energy sources such as coal and oil that pollute our air and threaten public health, while limiting our state’s opportunities for energy independence. Today Minnesota imports more than $20 billion dollars of energy each year from elsewhere. 

Our transition to a clean energy economy will likely include broader deployment of homegrown, clean energy technologies, and solar is leading the way. Although largely untapped, Minnesota’s solar energy potential is about 25% better than Germany’s, the world leader in solar installations. Diversifying Minnesota’s energy portfolio will create new economic opportunities for people across our state, while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels that hurt our health and environment.

This project will help make progress toward Minnesota’s goal to generate 10% of electricity from the sun by 2030, combining stakeholder collaboration with technical analysis to support broad deployment. In addition to the core collaborators, supporting partners include utilities, local governments, and solar industry representatives. The project will engage in a wide range of activities to identify and demonstrate least-cost, best-value strategies for Minnesota to achieve its solar energy goals.

Project process and expected outcomes

CEE staff are teaming with project partners Great Plains Institute and Clean Energy Resource Teams to enhance stakeholder engagement. At the same time, CEE researchers assist Clean Power Research to extract value from related modeling efforts.

This project uses a scenario-based tool to examine the potential for key technologies and management approaches (e.g., demand management strategies, storage, synergy with wind) to overcome grid integration challenges with increased solar penetration. 

The project identifies barriers to deployment while laying a technical foundation to understand Minnesota’s potential solar capacity. Among its strategies, the project will explore the practical potential of key technologies and management approaches to overcome grid integration challenges with increased solar.

In the long run, this project will help Minnesota to generate 10% of its electricity from the sun by 2030. Achieving this goal will take Minnesota from just 35 megawatts of solar capacity at the end of 2015 to as much as 6 gigawatts by 2030. 

Led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, this project is supported in part by a grant through the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative.

Image credit: Minnesota Solar Challege via CC

Project Info


Undertake stakeholder collaboration and technical analysis to support Minnesota’s deployment of solar electricity.

Department of Energy Implementation
DOE’s solar energy evolution and diffusion studies aim to enhance U.S. solar deployment by improving the understanding of soft costs, related technologies, and potential barriers, and by maximizing benefits through strategic planning to tackle complex market challenges.

MN Department of Commerce (Project lead)
Clean Energy Resource Teams
Clean Power Research
Great Plains Institute

CEE Contacts
Mike Bull
Jenny Edwards

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