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New state buildings going solar?

published 3/4/2013
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State buildings constructed or renovated with state bonding dollars may be required to harness the sun’s rays to keep the lights on.

HF567, sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), would require state building construction or major renovations of state buildings funded through state bonding proceeds to install solar electric and heating systems that are made in Minnesota.

“This will increase our Minnesota manufacturing capability, produce jobs and increase tax revenues to the state while decreasing operating costs for energy in our state buildings,” she told the House Energy Policy Committee on Monday.

The bill would require new buildings to install solar energy systems of up to 40 kilowatts capacity – depending on the size of the building – with costs capped at 5 percent of the total building costs.

With only two solar module manufacturing plants in the state, Melin told the committee that “this is a way to keep our public dollar creating jobs in Minnesota and, again … decrease energy costs for public buildings which would save taxpayer money, as well.”

The bill, held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill, was backed Monday by representatives from the state’s solar industry, including Joel Cannon, the CEO of Bloomington-based TenK Solar, who called the solar energy initiative an “excellent producer of jobs.

Peter Parris, a lobbyist for the sheet metal workers union, also praised the bill as a boost for Minnesota workers, telling the committee it would help generate job growth.

Ben Gerber, manager of energy and labor/management policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, testified that HF567 could have unintended repercussions. Minnesota’s solar businesses could lose jobs in other states if they’re penalized because Minnesota gives preference to Minnesota solar manufacturers.

A companion, SF570, sponsored by Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), has been approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee and is awaiting action by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

- Jonathan Avise


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