Minnesota Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Minnesota solar panels:

  • What it costs for most MN customers to install solar arrays
  • How much energy panels in the area produce on average
  • Perks and rebates available to help bring costs down
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How to Get Solar Panels in Minnesota

If you’re serious about installing solar in MN, your first step in the process will be to request a free quote from an installer.

This usually involves a representative coming to your Minnesota home to complete a property inspection and analysis. This will determine if you’re a good fit for solar and check what size rooftop solar power system your energy needs demand.

You’ll then choose a financing option — cash, loan, lease, or power purchase agreement (PPA) — and approve the system design your installer comes up with. Permits will be pulled next, and the solar panel installation will be completed. Finally, one last inspection will be scheduled with your local building department to close out the permits.

Converting to solar energy in MN not only reduces your emissions and your dependence on fossil fuels, but it also tends to save you money. The average solar customer in MN sees energy savings that pay for their entire solar panel system and then save around $17,500 on utility bills thereafter.

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All Energy Solar

Outstanding Regional Installer

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Full-service home energy solutions
  • Excellent reputation
  • NABCEP-certified technicians

Cons

  • Expensive
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MN Solar and More, LLC

Outstanding Local Installer

Local Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • NABCEP-certified technicians
  • Offers rewards for customer referrals
  • Excellent reputation

Cons

  • Limited service area
  • Limited information available on website
  • Relatively young company
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Sun Badger Solar

Outstanding Regional Installer

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Offers products from leading manufacturers
  • Competitive pricing
  • Offers rewards for customer referrals

Cons

  • No leases or PPAs
  • Relatively young company

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What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Minnesota?

Pricing photovoltaic (PV) equipment is a challenge because many factors affect your solar energy system costs. However, the typical per-watt price for equipment in MN is around $2.84. That puts the total for the average system size in the area — 8 kilowatts (kW) — at $15,900 after the federal investment tax credit (ITC) is taken.

Given local energy needs and electricity rates, your panels are expected to pay for themselves — a metric called the panel payback period — in around 12 years. This is about average in the U.S. The energy savings of $17,500 mentioned above are expected after the panels pay themselves off.

We’ll discuss some additional facets of solar system installation below. If you need more guidance on costs, you can check out our guide to pricing PV equipment in MN.

The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Minnesota

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), MN is ranked 15th in the nation for solar adoption.1 With high adoption rates comes to a booming solar industry and a wide range of choices for solar equipment brands.

Minnesotans experience a below-average number of sunny days per year, so high-efficiency panels are often preferred as they help residents take full advantage of available sun.

Below are some of the most commonly installed solar equipment brands in MN. These all have good efficiency ratings and can often provide enough power to offset energy bills in the area.

  • SunPower (now called Maxeon)
  • Panasonic
  • LG
  • Tesla
  • Silfab
  • REC
  • Canadian Solar
  • Trina Solar
  • Qcells

EcoWatch Preferred Partners

Here is a list of preferred partners in this area.

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Is Minnesota a Good State For Solar Panels?

MN is an excellent state to convert to solar power. There are a few things the state has going for it in terms of the value of solar equipment. These include:

  • Below-average energy consumption: While MN property owners receive less sunlight than most U.S. residents, they also use far less energy. The average monthly consumption in the North Star State is 775 kilowatt-hours (kWh), compared to the national average of 893.2 When energy bills are lower, smaller and more affordable systems are required to provide sufficient energy.
  • High risk of power outages: MN is at high risk of power outages, primarily because the electric grid is insufficiently sized to keep up with local demand.3 Solar panels and inverters alone won’t provide energy through blackouts. However, if you install solar batteries with your modules, you can temporarily go off-grid and maintain electricity through outages.
  • Outstanding solar perks: Partly because of the need to supplement fossil fuel energy production, MN promotes clean energy by offering numerous solar benefit programs. We’ll discuss these in greater depth later, but for now, just know that they help bring costs down and push long-term savings higher.
Power outages are common in MN, making solar batteries a popular option
Power outages are common in MN, making solar batteries a popular option. Credit: Ehmitrich / Unsplash

How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Minnesota?

It’s very difficult to estimate the amount of energy your panels will produce because there are a few factors that can move production levels up or down. Below, we’ll provide some information on these factors to give you an idea of what plays a role in your generation rate.

  • Sun intensity: The more intense the sunlight that hits your panels, the more energy they’ll be able to generate. Local solar intensity should be taken into account by your installer, but your home’s orientation can also make a difference. South-facing roofs in the U.S. mean your panels will be angled toward the path of the sun in the sky. This is why the U.S. Department of Energy notes that south-facing roofs are best for solar power system installations in North America.4
  • The volume of sunlight: The more sun exposure your panels have, the longer they’ll produce electricity and the more overall power they’ll generate. This is a major reason why your installer will consider shading your property before sizing your system. Tree coverage, buildings, utility poles, and other obstructions that cast shade on your panels during the day will cause your production levels to dip.
  • Weather conditions: Similarly, the local weather in your area will sway your production levels on a daily basis. Cloud coverage can drop production by between 10 and 90%. Bright, sunny days can mean significantly higher energy generation and are better, overall, for solar production.
  • The size of your solar project: The more panels you install, the more sunlight you can harness and convert to electricity. Provided all other factors are equal, larger systems will always provide higher levels of solar energy.
  • The efficiency of your panels: The brand of panels you install will also make a difference in energy generation. Each brand has a different efficiency rating, which tells you how much of the available sunlight can be harnessed and converted to electricity. Higher energy efficiency in your panels means a similarly sized system will produce more electricity for your home.

An accurate energy generation estimate for your system really requires a property assessment. However, you can use the chart below for roundabout estimates, which can be helpful to get a preliminary idea of the size you’ll need.

Solar Power System Size Expected Daily Energy Produced Expected Monthly Energy Produced Expected Annual Energy Produced
5 kW 16.6 kWh 500 kWh 6,000 kWh
6 kW 20 kWh 600 kWh 7,200 kWh
7 kW 23.3 kWh 700 kWh 8,400 kWh
8 kW 26.6 kWh 800 kWh 9,600 kWh
9 kW 30 kWh 900 kWh 10,800 kWh
10 kW 33.3 kWh 1,000 kWh 12,000 kWh
11 kW 36.6 kWh 1,100 kWh 13,200 kWh

You can use our solar calculator tool to get more accurate numbers for your specific property. This takes your address and shading on your home into consideration to estimate how much energy panels on your roof will provide.

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Solar Panel Policy History in Minnesota

MN has a long history of being pro-solar and pro-clean energy in general. The legislation that began this trend started back in 1978 with the passing of the solar easements and rights laws. These made it unlawful for any governing body — like homeowners associations — to prevent solar installation.

A few years later, in 1983, the net metering program was established. This program guaranteed that solar customers with systems up to 40 kW — far larger than most home solar systems — would receive credits for excess power production through interconnection.

The statute also mandated that the credits would be earned at the retail electricity rate, which is the best-case scenario for solar customers.

In 2000, MN initiated the wind and solar electric systems exemption. This made it so that installing solar would not increase your property taxes, even though your home value would increase as a result.5

A year later, in 2001, the state started the Renewable Development Fund (RDF). Funded by small charges on all residents’ utility bills, the fund would promote solar adoption and help reduce the cost of solar projects in the area.

In 2005, MN put in place a sales tax exemption to waive sales tax on all solar equipment. This helped reduce the cost of converting to solar energy.

The state’s first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was set in 2007. It mandated that at least 25% of Minnesota’s electricity be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025 (this has since been raised to 26.5%). It also includes a 31% mandate for Xcel Energy, a major Minnesota power provider, in particular. This was revised in 2013 to include a 1.5% solar carve-out to be reached by 2020.

In 2014, Xcel began its Solar*Rewards program to help meet the RPS goal. This included a cashback incentive of 8 cents for every kWh produced by solar systems for ten years. Minnesota Power also began its SolarSense rebate program around this time, which provided up to a 60% rebate for solar energy installations.

That same year, the state’s Made in Minnesota solar incentive was first offered. This was another sizable cashback program, although it ended in 2017.6

Also in 2014, the state’s community solar garden program made virtual net metering available. This helped to incentivize community solar in MN by providing interconnection and greater savings with community solar.

Large solar farm dedicated for community solar projects
Large solar farm dedicated for community solar projects. Credit: American Public Power Association / Unsplash

Two years later, the state passed a bill that made Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing available. This provided affordable and accessible solar loans to customers to reduce upfront costs.

Finally, in 2018, Xcel started its own renewable energy goal to become 100% carbon-free by 2050. This will very likely lead to additional positive updates to the statewide RPS goal.

What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in Minnesota?

Given the immense amount of pro-solar legislation in MN, it’s probably not surprising that there are many incentives available to make solar more appealing. We’ll briefly discuss each of these below.

  • Net metering: This policy is statewide and lets you earn credits for future electric bills by producing more power than you need with your panels. It mandates that you earn credits at the retail energy rate, which is ideal.
  • Federal tax credit: The federal solar tax credit provides a massive credit of 30% of your system total to your income taxes for the year you install your equipment. In MN, this averages out to just over $6,800.
  • PACE financing: As mentioned above, PACE financing helps residents get low-cost solar loans with appealing interest rates to keep up-front and long-term prices down.
  • Sales tax exemption: MN exempts all solar equipment from sales tax, which means the total cost for a system is significantly reduced.
  • Property tax exemption: Minnesota’s wind and solar-electric (PV) systems exemption prevents your property taxes from increasing as a result of going solar.

There are also a handful of local solar incentives and rebate programs from major utility companies, including Minnesota Power and Xcel Energy. You can read more about the above perks and other programs in your area in our guide to solar benefit programs in MN.

Find a Local Installer in Minnesota

Choosing a solar installer in MN can be difficult, especially because there are around 50 local providers, plus regional and national installation companies.6 Ultimately, the company you choose will influence your system cost, the panel brands available, how many panels are required to cover your energy use, and your warranty coverage.

Below, we’ll include some links to reviews of the top installers in different major cities throughout MN to help get you started.

Location of Andover in MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Companies in Andover

Downtown Austin, MN, streetview
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Austin

Aerial view of Bloomington, MN
Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

Best Solar Providers in Bloomington

Skyline of Duluth, MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Duluth

City skyline of St Paul, MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in St Paul

Location of Chaska in MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Chaska

Skyline of Minneapolis, MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Minneapolis

Aerial view of Crystal Lake in Burnsville, MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Burnsville

Aerial view of Blane, MN, with Minneapolis skyline in the distance
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Blaine

Location of Chanhassen in MN
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Chanhassen

For companies that service other cities in your area, you can read through our guide on choosing a solar installer in MN.

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Blog author image
Dan Simms
Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.

What Are The Best Solar Companies?