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First community solar projects getting launched

If you don’t have a sunny rooftop, solar energy developers offer an alternative — a share of a community solar garden.

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Solar gardens are sprouting in Minnesota.

These innovative solar power projects allow electric customers to invest in a large array off their property and own a share of the output, which gets credited to their monthly bills.

The first solar garden, a large ground-mounted system, is nearly finished in Rockford, next to the headquarters of its sponsor, the Wright Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, which says it plans to immediately build a second one.

In Minneapolis, start-up company MN Community Solar said Thursday that it expects no shortage of investors for that city’s first planned solar garden atop a business on E. Lake Street.

“The majority of residential customers and many businesses don’t have a roof that works for solar energy,” said the company’s CEO Ken Bradley, a longtime solar energy advocate who helped push adoption of the state’s new solar law, passed in May by the Minnesota Legislature. “Community solar gardens allow anyone to participate.”

Dustin Denison, a company principal, said it hopes to begin construction next year on the planned 40-kilowatt solar array, which is expected to cost $180,000. It will be built atop Northern Sun Merchandising, a seller of T-shirts, buttons and other products with progressive political messages at 2916 E. Lake St.
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