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They’ve been slowly growing the program since 2016. Right now, the city relies on solar energy for 50 percent of its power.

“It takes a while for the solar gardens to come online,” said Barone.

The city gets its solar power through Xcel Energy’s community solar garden program. Cities sign up for subscriptions with solar companies, then their energy bill is credited.

Minnetonka has contracts with five different solar companies, the first subscription started in 2017.

“By getting in early and having these contracts in place, even before they were fully built out, it ensured and guaranteed we were able to have those solar facilities available to us,” said Barone.

In January, the council approved a contract with the fifth provider. New Energy Equity will add the solar panels needed for the city to rely exclusively on solar power for electrical needs.

They’ve also been working with Innovative Power Systems. Chief Development Officer Eric Pasi told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the solar gardens are divided up.

“For a larger energy user like the City of Minnetonka, they might have 40 percent of those panels,” said Pasi.

According to Xcel, there are 193 active solar gardens statewide. This year alone, 25 projects have been completed.

In 2015, there was only one active solar garden.

“Community solar has exploded over the past several years,” said Pasi. “This is one of the most popular programs in the country.”

For Minnetonka, the transition will mean saving $500,000 a year, or $12.5 million over the next 25 years.

“All of the energy we use for the City of Minnetonka for our services, our facilities, will all be provided by solar energy,” said Barone. “Our utilities, for our pump stations, for example, for our water and sewer utilities, our water towers, everything you can think of.”

The program costs the city about $18,000 a year, which pays for an energy consultant to develop and track it.

Homeowners can also subscribe. For more information click here.

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