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Lawmakers move to expand solar energy requirements

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Minnesota's commerce commissioner is backing new legislation that would allow bigger solar energy plants in the state. It would also set thresholds for how much of the electricity sold by utility companies must come from solar power.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says the bills introduced at the Capitol will create jobs in the energy industry and allow Minnesota to generate more of it power, instead of importing it. A spokeswoman for Minnesota Power tells the Duluth News Tribune the state mandate would make it harder to ensure a reliable, affordable energy supply.

Existing law limits the size of solar energy units in the state to 40 kilowatts. The News Tribune reports the proposed legislation would expand that to 1,000 kilowatts, which is a megawatt. It would also set solar standards for utility companies to reach in 2016, 2020, and 2025.

Separately, a coalition of clean energy groups called on Minnesota to set a new target of generating half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030. The Minnesota Clean Energy & Jobs Campaign says wind energy has created 3,000 jobs in the state and predicts the solar industry will add 2,000 more if the Legislature approves the new standards.

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