Solar Energy Legacy Grants for Local Governments

July 25, 2011


Note: Only certain local government entities are eligible to participate in this program; it will not support residential or commercial solar energy system installations. Also, while the most recent application period expired January 31, 2011, additional offerings are expected for future years. Please consult the program web for updates on the status of the program.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering grants to local governments that install solar energy systems within parks and on trails of regional or statewide significance. Under this program, grants are available for a variety of solar technologies, including photovoltaic systems (PV), solar water heating systems, and solar air heating systems. Program funding is limited to 75% of the total project cost, with a minimum request of $10,000 and a maximum request of $150,000. The 25% matching funds requirement may not be met with other state funding; however, energy efficiency improvements associated with the solar energy project may be counted as matching funds. In other words, up to 25% of the total project cost may be in the form of energy efficiency improvements.

Priority will be given to solar energy projects that provide public interpretation and/or education, incorporate energy efficiency improvements, and enhance the quality of outdoor recreation within parks and on trails. Eligible project costs include costs associated with the purchase and installation of solar energy equipment (labor, materials, scrap disposal, transportation, etc.) facility efficiency improvements (up to 25%), interpretive signs and panels, and certain administrative costs. In order to qualify for consideration for a grant, projects must meet specific criteria defining what constitutes a trail or park of regional or statewide significance. Projects within state parks, state recreation areas, or on state trails are not eligible for grants under this program.

Grant recipients must commit to keep and maintain the solar energy system for at least 20 years. Furthermore, all projects must meet the eligibility criteria for Minnesota's consumer solar rebate program administered by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security (OES). These requirements include:

  • Site assessment and shading analysis: Solar-electric/PV systems must be 90% shade free; solar hot water systems must be 80% shade free; and solar hot air systems must be 85% shade free from September to May. Additional site requirements exist for solar water heating systems.
  • Proposed projects must complete the Top-View Diagram showing the location of the system and possible obstructions.
  • Equipment and installation: These requirements vary by technology, but generally include minimum warranties on various system components and installation; system certification standards; installer qualifications; code compliance; system orientation; and other technical system standards.

The OES strongly recommends, but does not require, that facilities considering PV systems perform an energy audit prior to applying for a Solar Energy Legacy Grant. In addition, while off-grid systems are potentially eligible, the OES also recommends that systems be grid-connected and take advantage of net metering when possible. Net metering is available to grid-connected PV systems up to 40 kilowatts (kW).

Funding for the program comes from the Parks and Trails Fund established in 2008. The program was budgeted at $487,500 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 and $585,000 for FY 2011. Please see the program website and solicitation for further program details, requirements, and application information.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: State
Category: Financial Incentive
State: Minnesota
Incentive Type: Grant Program
Web Site:
Administrator: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Solar Water Heat
  • Solar Space Heat
  • Solar Photovoltaics
  • Water Heaters
  • Lighting
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Custom/Others pending approval
Incentive Amount: $10,000 - $150,000
Maximum Incentive: Lesser of 75% of installed cost or $150,000
Equipment Requirements: Projects must meet the technical standards of the state solar rebate programs (e.g., equipment certification, warranties, etc.); requirements vary by technology
Installation Requirements: Grid-connected recommended but off-grid systems eligible. All projects must be installed by program qualified contractors; meet system orientation requirements; and be free from excessive shading


Name: Traci Vibo
Organization: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Address: 500 Lafayette Road, Box 52
St. Paul MN 55155-4052
Phone: (651) 259-5619
Name: Andrew Korsberg
Organization: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Address: 500 Lafayette Road, Box 52
St. Paul MN 55155-4052
Phone: (651) 259-5642

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.