November 14, 2016

New Rebate Program Incentivizes Public Entities To Generate Solar Energy

First Publicly Owned Property Solar installation at the new University of Minnesota-Crookston (UMC) Wellness Center.

First Publicly Owned Property Solar installation at the new University of Minnesota-Crookston (UMC) Wellness Center.

Otter Tail Power Company’s new Publicly Owned Property Solar program, approved by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Division of Energy Resources in August, incentivizes public entities in Minnesota to generate their own solar energy by providing rebates for installation of qualifying solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. “Public entities typically don’t qualify for the 30 percent federal tax credit for installing solar PV systems,” said Otter Tail Power Company Market Planning Manager Jason Grenier. “So, approval of this program is an important step in making solar generation more affordable to those customers.”

Through the program, Otter Tail Power Company provides incentives of $1,250 per kilowatt (kW) of installed nameplate capacity, up to 50 percent of project costs, for solar PV systems not exceeding 20 kW. “Before a public entity can take advantage of the solar rebate program, we require the facility to meet certain energy-efficiency standards,” said Grenier. “That’s really to the benefit of the customer. Solar installations and energy-efficiency projects are beneficial to customers and the environment. But energy-efficiency projects generally cost less and have a quicker pay back, so we want to be sure customers take those steps first.”

The first public entity to take advantage of Otter Tail Power Company’s Publicly Owned Property Solar program is the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC).

Since classes began in late August, UMC students have been enjoying the college’s new energy-efficient $15 million Wellness Center, which includes a two-court gymnasium, suspended track, weight and cardio area, group exercise room, classroom—and 19.5-kW rooftop solar PV system.
Otter Tail Power Company Energy Management Representative Ken Johnson has been involved with the new Wellness Center since the planning phase. "Because UMC reached out to us early, we’ve worked together to ensure the building is energy efficient and able to generate its own renewable energy,” said Johnson. “On top of future energy-efficiency and renewable-energy savings, UMC received rebates for participating in two of our programs—$25,000 for Publicly Owned Property Solar and $32,000 for Commercial Design Assistance."

Johnson estimates that the solar PV system will produce 23,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, which is 6 percent to 10 percent of the building's electricity consumption and about equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power two homes for a year.

The Commercial Design Assistance program identified 19 energy-efficient measures that were incorporated into the building’s design. Some of those measures include highly efficient wall and roof insulation, energy-efficient windows, daylighting in the gymnasium, and LED lighting throughout the building. The measures combined will result in approximately 100,000 kWh saved annually, or 28 percent of the building's energy consumption.

“UMC has a long and successful history of partnering on innovative projects with Otter Tail Power Company—from the Campus Energy Challenge in 2010 to the solar rebate program that allowed the installation of the solar PV system on the roof of our new Wellness Center,” said UMC Chancellor Fred Wood. “The Wellness Center symbolizes all the dimensions of wellness, including environmental wellness. It is therefore very exciting to have worked together with Otter Tail Power Company to generate up to 10 percent of the energy needed for this facility from solar power. Students, who are increasingly concerned about sustainability, have been very supportive of this feature, and it’s definitely a major contributing factor to why the State of Minnesota’s Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond (B3) Sustainable Buildings Program presented the 2016 Best of B3 Award for Design to our Wellness Center.”

For more information about these programs, visit or