Local Government Community Solar Toolkit



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Community Solar Gardens can be an excellent opportunity for cities, counties, and other local governments to get involved in solar energy and engage community members.

This toolkit has been created by CERTs to help you decide how to get involved with community solar and then take steps to move forward.

Get started by checking out the resources below.

Community Solar Gardens

1. The Basics

Just getting started? This is the place to begin with key resources.

  • What are they?
  • Guide to CSGs
  • Workshop video

4. Developers

Find developers, and ask them the right questions at the right time.

  • Lists of questions & tips
  • Find CSG developers
  • Evaluating financials

2. Your Role

Walk through your options for getting involved.

  • What are your goals?
  • What roles suit you?
  • Download Questionnaire

5. Ready to Act

Steps you can take to move forward with community solar.

  • Talking to council & community
  • RFP examples
  • Hosting agreements

3. Finer Details

Dig a little deeper into community solar gardens.

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Guidance from Xcel Energy
  • Renewable Energy Credits

6. Share Stories

We want to share your experience with other local governments!

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Media outreach


  Step 1: The Basics

What are community solar gardens?

Community solar gardens can be a simple way to go solar. People and organizations purchase an up-front subscription, then soak in the rays (much of Minnesota is as sunny as places like Houston, TX and Tallahassee, FL). Participating can also be more complicated if you choose to get more involved. But we’ll talk about roles local governments can play in the next step. You can click here to learn more basics.

CERTs overview of community solar gardens

Other Resources:

  Step 2: Thinking About Your Local Government’s Role

What’s your goal with community solar gardens?

What direction should you go?

There are a number of roles that local governments can play in advancing a project. Here are some of them:

  • Regulator: Your entity enables the development of solar gardens in your community through planning, zoning, and permitting
  • Subscriber: Your entity signs up to receive bill credits from a Solar Garden
  • Host Site: Your entity leases its land or roof space to a solar garden developer. As part of the lease, you can receive monetary compensation, a free subscription to the solar garden, or you can put your compensation toward buying down the cost for other subscribers (e.g., residents)
  • Finance: Your entity puts forth the funding needed to finance the development of a solar garden in your community.
  • Outreach Partner: Your entity promotes one or multiple solar gardens to which your community members can subscribe.


  Step 3: Exploring the Finer Details

You have questions, we have answers.

Use the resources below to learn more about the intricacies of community solar.

  • Guidance on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). If your government entity subscribes to a solar garden, can you say that you’re “solar powered?” It depends on whether you own the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) associated with your subscription. This document helps explain what kind of claims you can and can’t make if you don’t own the RECs.

  Step 4: Finding and Working with Developers

Talking to community solar garden developers is essential, but what should you discuss, and when?

We recommend that you begin by thinking about the kinds of questions that you may have for developers. CERTs and our partners have compiled a few documents that offer guidance on these sorts of conversations.

CSG Tips for Communities

Download the Community Tip Sheet
Questions that communities should ask
and tips for working with developers.

Questions Subscribers Can Ask

Download the Subscriber Questions
Questions and considerations for subscribers
to community solar garden projects.

Now that you know what you want to ask, it’s time to find developers.


See Community Solar Companies on the Clean Energy Project Builder >>

Click to see companies
Know of a company that should be listed? Email info@cleanenergyprojectbuilder.org to let us know.

Crunch numbers to evaluate CSG project financials

CERTs and our partners have created a Community Solar Garden Calculator that can help you evaluate various financial scenarios.
Click here to use the calculator >>


2017 Bill Credit Rates

Service Type Standard ARR (Applicable Retail Rate) Enhanced ARR for gardens > 250 kW (+ $.02) Enhanced ARR for gardens ≤ 250 kW (+ $.03) Value of Solar
Residential Service ($/kWh) $0.13310 $0.15310 $0.16310 $0.10330
Small General Service ($/kWh) $0.12798 $0.14798 $0.15798 $0.10330
General Service ($/kWh) $0.10296 $0.12296 $0.13296 $0.10330
Renewable Energy Credit Ownership Customer owns Xcel owns Xcel owns Xcel owns


  Step 5: Taking Action!

Talking to City Council

This is a slide deck that you can download that you can customize to educate City Council and others about community solar gardens. Download Presentation >>

Another resource that may prove useful is our Planning, Zoning, and Permitting Handbook for Local Governments that can help you prepare and plan for solar development in your jurisdictions.

Talking to Residents and Businesses

As you start to do outreach to residents and businesses, you can offer this checklist as a resource for potential subscribers.

Subscriber Agreement Disclosure Checklist

Download the Disclosure Checklist

Request for Proposal (RFP) Examples

If you’ve decided to subscribe or host—or a combination of the two—we offer example documents below that you can consult.

Host Site Agreements

If you’re considering becoming a host site, the guide to lease agreements below will be a helpful start, and the model agreements for rooftop and land leases will help you dig into the details.

  Step 6: Sharing Your Stories

We’d love to hear about your experiences!

CERTs wants to help people all across Minnesota learn from one another in this new and exciting realm of community solar gardens.

Please contact Dan Thiede at 612-626-0556 or thie0235@umn.edu so that we can share your story with others!


< Return to CERTs page on Community Solar Gardens


Minnesotans building a clean energy future


    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission