Solar Options for Renters

Dear Sam,

I’m interested in participating in a solar energy program or benefitting from solar energy, but I am a renter. What can I do?



Dear Meng,

Renewable energy generation is on the rise in Minnesota.  In 2020 renewable sources of electricity such as wind, solar and hydropower accounted for a full 29% of in-state electricity net generation.  While total electricity generation from solar energy in Minnesota is still only a little more than 3% of the state’s net generation, the use of solar technology to generate power has increased markedly since 2013 and continues to grow year over year.  So now is an excellent time to be investigating options for using solar energy, including if you’re a renter.

There are 2 ways to access solar energy for your residential needs.  The first is installing solar panels on your roof.  But only certain homes are good candidates for solar panels and not everyone owns their home.  So option 2 is to sign up for a community solar garden.  

Community solar gardens allow you to purchase power generation from a large solar array development.  Usually, a customer buys a portion of solar energy generated by a garden which can be located anywhere in your county or an adjacent county.  This portion would match your residence’s average energy use per month.  Then the customer sees a credit on their energy bill equivalent to the amount they purchased from the solar garden.  Some exciting perks of community solar is that many programs do not require an upfront payment, your subscription can travel with you if you move residences, and often you save money on your energy bills.  Community solar gardens in the Twin Cities Metro are owned by private companies and nonprofits and not your electric utility.  The programs offered vary widely so it is important to do your research and be sure you understand the program you are buying into.  Read the fine print and understand the terms!

There are some very good resources for understanding Community Solar options.  The Citizens Utility Board has a great consumer guide that you can access here.  And the Clean Energy Resources Teams and Minnesota Renewable Energy Society are good websites to get you started on your solar journey.  Xcel Energy has some renewable energy programs you can read about here.  And the Tangletown Neighborhood Association is hosting an Explore Solar Virtual Panel on April 21 that will feature local experts on everything solar.  We will be discussing solar power generation in Minnesota and the Twin Cities, in particular, and we will cover the pros and cons of installing solar panels on your residences as well as solar garden subscriptions.  If you would like to register for our solar event you can do so here. We hope you can join us!

-Sustainability Sam