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Solar energy is having a moment

We may only get 1% of our electricity from solar right now, but that is poised to change, and fast.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — As we move to more renewable energy sources, solar energy is having a moment, if you will. 

In fact, a new report by The International Energy Agency called solar the new king of energy. But how much of an impact does it have here in Minnesota?

“We're around 1% right now so we have a lot of room to grow,” said Julian White with Nokomis Energy.

White says solar is growing quickly. With many large utilities hoping to be carbon-free by 2050, solar energy will play a big role.

“Some wind, a lot of solar, maybe a little bit of gas and discussions around nuclear and that's kind of the future mix of the system,” White said.

The reason? It's cheap and reliable.

“We don't have the volatilities that you see from oil or even coal to some extent, nuclear fuel, the fuel is the sun. So, as long as the sun comes up, we know where the fuel is coming from. It's delivered for free,” he said.

“When you have issues at your large electricity plants, when you have issues at the transmission level, you know local generation can make sure the system stays reliable, make sure people are still getting the electricity they've come to expect,” White added.

The one thing solar does require is land. Julian says companies like his are working with owners to lease unused or low production farmland.

"Which often is 3 or 4 times what they might get for farming the land themselves or renting it to a farmer,” White said.

And for those who are worried about the esthetics of it all. Well, that's shifting too. People are thinking more about energy. How we use it? How much we use it? And where it comes from?

“We're becoming more in touch with how the electricity system works. It's becoming more present in our lives and I like to think that's a good thing,” White said.

And because the source of energy is hyper-local, there can be more local control. It's not one size fits all.

"I think it's really important that we bring those best national practices, but we deploy them in a way that is fitting for the communities that we actually live in,” he said.