This report shows that a renewable energy future is not only possible in Minnesota, but that the generation cost of solar, wind, and storage is competitive with natural gas.

New MISO-wide Analysis: Feedback from the Solar Potential Analysis included the value of running a similar analysis for the entire Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) service territory in an effort to model the day-to-day realities of Minnesota’s role in a larger network. MISO results are now available.

Minnesota has been ambitious in meeting its renewable energy goals: the state already reached its current Renewable Electricity Standard of 25 percent by 2025, and is on track to reach our current Solar Electricity Standard of 1.5 percent by the end of 2020.

The Solar Potential Analysis Report, prepared by Clean Power Research for the MN Solar Pathways Initiative, includes several scenarios that model future renewable energy generation costs. The report finds that Minnesota could achieve 10 percent solar by 2025 at costs comparable to natural gas generation. Further, the report finds that expected cost decreases in solar, wind, and storage will enable Minnesota to achieve 70 percent solar and wind by 2050 at costs comparable to natural gas generation.

Click here to download a press release about the report.

Key findings from the report (click to expand)

Solar and wind can serve 70 percent of Minnesota’s electrical load in 2050. Solar and wind can serve 70 percent of Minnesota’s load at generation costs that are comparable to the levelized generation cost of new natural gas generation.

Watch this finding explained in video:

Additional capacity coupled with energy curtailment is considerably less expensive than, and a viable alternative to, long-term or seasonal storage in a high renewables future. Declining costs of solar and wind generation (<$20/MWh) will enable solar and wind to be economically curtailed during periods of high production and low load.

Watch this finding explained in video:

Using other flexible generation resources in limited amounts supports a high renewables future. The strategic use of other generation resources during brief periods of low-solar and low-wind production will significantly reduce the storage, solar, and wind capacities needed to serve Minnesota’s hourly load, reducing the generation cost for 70 percent solar and wind by nearly half.

Storage is an important part of a high renewables future; it expands the dispatch capabilities of wind and solar assets. Sufficient quantities of storage smooth out the intra-hour variability of solar and wind.

Shifting of key flexible loads may further decrease generation costs. Load shifting of new electric vehicle and residential domestic hot water loads demonstrated a potential 10-20 percent decrease in generation costs by moving the consumption to different times in an hour, day, or week.

Perspectives on the Solar Potential Analysis

  • "This new study provides valuable information and analysis as Minnesota continues its progress to a renewable energy future. Along with additional research and analysis this study will help inform ongoing discussions and decision-making about the vital role of renewable energy in powering our state."

    Commissioner Jessica Looman
    Commissioner Jessica Looman Minnesota Department of Commerce
  • "This report shows that a renewable energy future is not only possible in Minnesota, but that the generation cost of solar, wind, and storage is competitive with natural gas generation."

    Brian Ross
    Brian Ross Great Plains Institute
  • "We learned that coupling additional solar and wind capacity with energy curtailment when production is not needed eliminates the need for costly seasonal energy storage."

    Josh Quinnell
    Josh Quinnell Center for Energy and Environment
  • "The MN Solar Pathways Solar Potential Analysis Report demonstrates that it’s possible to find an economical pathway to higher renewable generation. Critical to this project was the use of time-correlated solar, wind and load generation datasets in advanced software tools to more precisely see the effects of different scenarios, such as varying amounts of solar, wind and storage capacities."

    Jeff Ressler
    Jeff Ressler Clean Power Research
  • "The MN Solar Pathways Solar Potential Analysis approach is conservative but relevant, and there is a growing body of good work that shows that penetrations in the 70-80 percent renewable range are quite feasible and not unduly expensive. Best of all, we have the key technologies today to get to 70 percent renewable energy and to accommodate massive electrification of other energy sectors."

    Mark Ahlstrom
    Mark Ahlstrom Energy Systems Integration Group
  • "This is another in a growing number of studies that shows that a high renewable electricity future is not only possible but is probably the best option for Minnesota consumers. We could end up paying too much for electricity if we don't look carefully at much higher levels of wind and solar power."

    Annie Levenson-Falk
    Annie Levenson-Falk Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota
  • "The MN Solar Pathways Solar Potential Analysis Report is consistent with other recent studies affirming that Minnesota’s move to a clean electricity system is the right path. The report shows that reaching 70% renewables in Minnesota is achievable and the right economic choice, and that going even higher should be as well. Moreover, the report highlights that stakeholders and policymakers should start working on policies for leveraging ‘economic curtailment’ and the system flexibility it can bring to the table."

    Allen Gleckner
    Allen Gleckner Fresh Energy
  • "Lake Region Electric Cooperative has been happy to be involved in the collaborative effort surrounding the MN Solar Pathways Project to represent the views of a rural distribution cooperative and moreover, our members, to the broad cross section of the committee members. The results of this study will aid us as we continue to strive to be the trusted energy advisor for our members, not only for today, but into the future."

    Tim Thompson
    Tim Thompson Lake Region Electric Cooperative
  • “The Solar Potential Analysis Report clearly affirms that renewable energy is an affordable energy solution. We are excited about the report findings and look forward to Minnesota meeting its renewable energy goals.”

    Matt Boys
    Matt Boys RES (Renewable Energy Systems)
  • "The Metropolitan Council relies on good data to guide its long-term planning process. The Solar Potential Analysis confirms that the Twin Cities region’s efforts to invest in renewable energy will pay off for consumers, businesses, and the environment."

    Cameran Bailey
    Cameran Bailey Metropolitan Council
  • "Duluth is proud to be part of the Minnesota Solar Pathways Initiative. Community leadership is critical to curbing the harmful effects of climate change, and so are resources to help cities address it. The investments we are making in Duluth through district energy, solar garden investments, and incorporation of renewable fuels helps us meet carbon and greenhouse gas reduction goals, setting Duluth up for a healthier and more sustainable future."

    Mayor Emily Larson
    Mayor Emily Larson City of Duluth

Solar Potential Analysis in the News

About MN Solar Pathways

The initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, is a three-year project designed to explore least-risk, best-value strategies for meeting the State of Minnesota’s solar goals. As part of this aim, the Pathways Team is modeling renewable generation costs, examining ways to streamline interconnection, and evaluating technologies that can increase solar hosting capacity on the distribution grid.

MN Solar Pathways is led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Great Plains Institute, Center for Energy and Environment, Clean Energy Resource Teams, and Clean Power Research. 20 other organizations, from utilities to advocacy groups and from corporations to local governments, have contributed their time and expertise in the review and creation of reports for the initiative.

MN Solar Pathways

More MN Solar Pathways Reports

Final Technical Report to U.S. Dept. of Energy

This is the final technical report submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy summarizing the efforts and findings of the MN Solar Pathways project.

Report: Solar Potential Analysis – MISO Region

This report attempts to answer the question: How do we achieve 100% renewables across the MISO region while not breaking the bank?


Get in touch with the MN Solar Pathways project leads.

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