A fifth of Minnesota's electricity came from renewables in 2015


More than a fifth of the electricity generated in Minnesota last year came from renewable sources – three times the amount being generated a decade ago.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce said 21 percent of the state's electricity came from renewable sources including wind, solar, hydro and biomass power, compared to just 6 percent in 2005.

Coal is still Minnesota's biggest source of power, but it now provides just 44 percent of the state's electricity, a reduction of one-third on the 66 percent it generated in 10 years earlier.

Along with renewables, natural gas – which has lower carbon emissions than coal – has grown in use over the past decade and now generates 13 percent of our energy, with nuclear accounting for the remaining 21 percent.

The commerce department says the statistics show Minnesota is well on pace of exceeding its Renewable Energy Standard, which sets out plans to get 25 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2025.

"We have reduced our dependence on polluting coal that must be imported from outside the state, while increasing our own clean energy made right here in Minnesota," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in the release. "It’s a tremendous benefit for our energy sector, our economy and jobs, and our environment."

Most of Minnesota's renewable energy comes from wind power, accounting for 17 of the 21 percent of overall energy generation, but there are attempts afoot to increase the state's solar power as well.

It accounted for less than 1 percent of total electricity in 2015, but the commerce department says the state's solar power generation is expected to increase by 15 times this year alone, as more solar panel projects get the go ahead.

Minnesota adopted the Solar Energy Standard in 2013, agreeing to produce 1.5 percent of its energy from solar sources by 2020, but the state should well surpass that level.

Chief among the solar projects is Xcel Energy's community solar garden program, which allows city residents to invest in solar farms in rural Minnesota and reap the benefits to their energy bills.

An estimated 250 megawatts of solar arrays will be installed this year.

That said, MPR reports the Minnesota attorney general's office plans to look into the way people are being encouraged to invest in community solar gardens, after a number of complaints made about solicitation through the mail and online.

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