“COMMUNITY SOLAR IS THE EASIEST THING RESIDENTS CAN DO TO BE MORE SUSTAINABLE IN THEIR OWN LIVES. IDEALLY, EVERY HOUSEHOLD WOULD SIGN UP FOR WINDSOURCE® AND COMMUNITY SOLAR.” -- Sean Gosiewski
Great residential energy sustainability is far from impossible, according to Sean Gosiewski. A dedicated and active member of the alternative energy community in the Twin Cities, Sean has over 30 years of energy and sustainability work experience, tracing back to 1983 when he co-founded the Minnesota Coalition of Bicyclists. Sean currently runs the Alliance for Sustainability, an organization collaborating with the Lake Street Energy Challenge (LSEC) to link citizens, congregations, and neighborhood organizations to community solar opportunities. “The Alliance for Sustainability has a strong history of empowering neighborhoods around sustainability,” Sean said. “And we are excited to continue this work with the Lake Street Energy Challenge.”
Reducing Emissions through Community Solar
In response to the City of Minneapolis’ and the State of Minnesota’s climate goals, Sean explored alternative routes to meet those objectives. “Minnesota has a goal of 10% solar, and Minneapolis has a goal of 80% emissions reduction by 2050,” Sean explained. “Community solar gardens let us rapidly and easily achieve this goal.” The prerequisites for residents interested in committing to community solar are (1) an Xcel Energy bill, and (2) willingness to sign a multi-year contract with a solar developer. Residents lease panels in a large “garden” of panels located off-site from their home.
The LSEC has partnered with the Alliance for Sustainability to inform Lake Street neighborhoods about community solar. As a result, almost 200 households in the Lake Street corridor have signed up to participate in a community solar garden.
There are many community solar garden developers, and residents should carefully consider developer contracts before signing up for a garden. Sean recommended that residents pay close attention to the following: the escalator that the contract offers; the terms of ending the contract; whether the contract is transferable; and whether any down payments or fees are required.
Achieving the City's Climate Goals
“I am excited about the Lake Street Energy Challenge because neighborhoods can make huge differences in helping to achieve the City’s climate goals,” Sean commented. Sean has worked with neighborhood organizations throughout his career and knows that small groups of people can achieve large results. “It can be hard to get people involved in energy efficiency at the city-level,” Sean said. “It’s so invisible—it’s hard.” Easy and exciting programs like community solar that require residents to sign up for an existing program help lower some of these barriers to awareness and involvement.
Educating yourself on community solar basics and looking over the fine-print of potential contracts is a key aspect to ensuring your successful participation in a garden. Once you do, you will be saving money and helping make significant strides in achieving city-wide environmental goals. The LSEC website has information to help you begin your community solar garden research and planning. You can also find energy usage snapshots for Lake Street neighborhoods produced using Xcel Energy consumption data.