On March 30, 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce along with its core team, kicked off its Department of Energy-funded MN Solar Pathways project aimed at finding the least-risk, best-value solutions for MN to achieve its solar energy goals. Clean Power Research is a member of the core team, which also includes: the Center for Energy and Environment, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, the Electric Power Research Institute, the Great Plains Institute, NREL and Smarter Grid Solutions

The three-year project includes investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities; the solar industry; cities; large commercial energy users; interconnection and hosting capacity experts; and rate-payer representatives. By developing a collaborative stakeholder process, MN Solar Pathways is intentionally setting out to represent the interests and concerns of all stakeholders, and to build consensus for sustainable solar development strategies in Minnesota.

Solar Pathways: Making an impact

Notably, the Project North Star team identified three key actions where support from the SunShot Initiative could make a significant impact in achieving Minnesota’s ambitious solar goals:

  1. Quantify the techno-economic potential for solar growth in Minnesota over the next 10-50 years.
  2. Develop a path for solar growth over the next 3-10 years.
  3. Support solar deployment over the next 0-3 years.

Clean Power Research will be leading the technical analysis for MN Solar Pathways. Specifically, Clean Power Research will utilize its PV simulation (SolarAnywhere®) and bill calculation (PowerBill® API) capabilities to create two key techno-economic analyses that address the first two actions listed above (and that are described in further detail below). CPR will also facilitate technical work being led by the Electric Power Research Institute and Smarter Grid Solutions on the third action (also described in further detail below).

1. Quantify the Techno-Economic Potential for Solar Growth

MN Solar Pathways will conduct a scenario-based Solar Potential Analysis (SPA) that examines how key technologies and management approaches (demand side management, energy storage, geographic dispersion, synergy with wind and ‘smart’ curtailment) can help overcome grid integration challenges encountered with increasing solar penetration.

The SPA will demonstrate how a portfolio of technology strategies can achieve the lowest levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for dependable solar power production at increasing levels of solar penetration.

2. Developing a Path for Solar Growth

MN Solar Pathways will develop a Solar Deployment Strategy (SDS) tool to inform decision-making both now and in the future on different pathways to achieve Minnesota’s near- and long-term solar energy goals, including the state’s 10% by 2030 goal.

The SDS will be shaped by a stakeholder engagement process that will also identify and set in motion programs, partnerships and implementation strategies for integrating solar into existing or new implementation frameworks/processes. The SDS will be a replicable and living analysis to inform choices between different solar deployment strategies.

3. Supporting Solar Deployment

The Electric Power Research Institute will conduct a review of existing interconnection processes to determine what updates are needed to better streamline the interconnection process and better accommodate solar and other DERs in Minnesota. Separately, Smarter Grid Solutions will perform hosting capacity analyses to evaluate how smart inverters, active network management and other technologies may be utilized to integrate DERs in a cost-efficient manner.

Clean Power Research believes that the development of objective techno-economic analyses will greatly support states, utilities, the solar industry and ratepayers as they deploy solar to meet their future energy needs. As part of a great team with SunShot funding, Clean Power Research looks forward to an exciting three years to come.

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.