Solar for Schools grants in Minnesota: Learn how to apply in 2024
Minnesota’s new Solar for Schools program is up and running – and districts across the state are taking advantage.
The program, created in 2021, allows school districts to apply for grant funding to install solar and reduce their power bills and carbon footprint.
Solar for Schools will have two funding rounds in 2024. To learn more about this program and how your school can take advantage, keep reading!
Solar for Schools overview
Lawmakers created the Solar for Schools program to encourage more solar development by educational institutions in Minnesota. K-12 schools, Tribal Contract Schools, as well as schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are eligible to apply.
Since 2021, the state has awarded more than $9 million in Solar for Schools grants. The state predicts the number of “solar schools” could increase by 153% in the next decade thanks to this program.
The level of funding from grant funding depends on a school district’s tax capacity and number of students. Schools with a lower tax capacity per “adjusted pupil unit” are eligible for a larger grant share – up to 70% of project costs.
State colleges and universities can get up to 50% of costs covered through the program, tribal schools can get 60% and cooperative schools may receive 40%.
Schools that are looking to take advantage of this grant program must complete what’s known as a “readiness assessment” that demonstrates the school has contemplated a potential solar installation, its costs and a curriculum that would accompany it. Clean Energy Resources Teams, or CERTS, provides schools with technical assistance during the grant process.
The state will invite schools to submit a grant application after they’ve been deemed “ready” to do so.
The deadlines for this year’s Solar for Schools funding rounds are:
Funding round 1
- Readiness assessment due Feb. 7, 2024
- Full grant application due June 24, 2024
Funding round 2
- Readiness assessment due July 31, 2024
- Full grant application due Nov. 30, 2024
2024 program changes
This year, the state made some important changes to the program. For one, system sizes are no longer limited to 40 kW – now systems can be as large as 1 megawatt. Outside of Xcel Energy’s territory, the maximum grant size is $500,000.
State lawmakers also increased funding to the grant program by $30 million.
The state also reduced the maximum grant share to 70% because the federal government approved new incentives for tax-exempt entities. That incentive is known as “direct pay,” and it allows schools, governments and nonprofits to apply for a payment equivalent to the 30% tax credit available to homeowners and businesses.
Schools that receive a solar system grant can still receive direct pay for the project’s total cost. So a $300,000 solar installation that receives a maximum grant of $210,000 can still get a $90,000 direct pay incentive, reducing the total investment to $0.
After the system is installed, the school reaps the benefits of reduced utility costs.
To learn more about how your school can benefit from solar, reach out to our team to set up a free assessment.
Read more from Northland’s solar energy experts:
- Solar for Schools grants in Minnesota: Learn how to apply in 2024
- SolarSense applications due soon: Learn how to apply with Minnesota Power
- Wolf Track Energy team grows with Real Solar merger
- REAP grants for solar: How to get financing for your system
- Net metering in Minnesota: What to know