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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Driving on Sunshine with Electric Vehicles and Solar

Mar 31, 2022 08:00PM ● By Sam Duane

Courtesy of All Energy Solar

It was a banner year in 2021 for electric vehicles throughout the United States and beyond. Nearly half-a-million buyers bought an electric vehicle (EV) last year, and the number of pure EV choices continues to grow. According to Kelly Blue Book, there were 25 different EV models sold in the last quarter of 2021, and new models are slated for introduction this year.

In all, nearly 1.5 million electrified vehicles (the combined total of EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids) were sold in the U.S. last year. Electrified vehicle sales accounted for 9.7 percent of all sales in 2021, and those gains could be dwarfed by what is expected this year.

As more consumers make the move to fully electric vehicles, the need for EV charging stations grows and gaps in service remain. Though it is hard to beat the free EV charging stations located at some Target stores, co-ops and other parking lots, the preference for private, home-based, electric charging stations is on the rise. One effective way to generate that power is solar energy.

A major benefit of buying an EV is finally giving fossil fuels the boot. For many consumers, one of the top reasons for making a move to an EV is the peace of mind in knowing that they have significantly reduced the amount of emissions and waste they are producing annually by eliminating the need for gasoline and oil. Unfortunately, most electricity in the U.S., including 45 percent of energy in Minnesota, still comes from fossil fuel-based power plants.

Those that have purchased an EV have already made a good choice for themselves, the environment and the future when it comes to their chosen transportation. It makes sense to take the next step and exchange fossil fuel-based energy at a home or business for a more sustainable and green solution.

When it comes to charging an electric vehicle at home, doing it through self-provided solar energy is the most cost-effective means available. Solar panels can be installed on the roof of a garage, a home or other structure; the EV charger can be mounted outside for easy access or inside a garage to cater to cold Minnesota winters. 

Electricity produced by solar panels is more economical than buying electricity directly from the local utility. Although the initial amount saved may be pennies on the dollar, solar could easily save thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicle, especially as utility prices continue to rise every year.

The benefits do not stop when the EV is finished charging. When the EV is unplugged, the solar panels will continue to generate energy that can be used elsewhere on the property. If the power produced is in excess of what is needed, the surplus is transmitted out to the local grid for a credit on the solar owner’s utility bill, a practice known as net metering. Solar energy systems in Minnesota can be designed to generate 120 percent or more of a property’s expected electricity needs.

Significant credits, rebates and incentive programs are still available to help bring solar to many homes or businesses, and they can be stacked together for substantial savings. The federal Investment Tax Credit to install solar is 26 percent, and Minnesota does not charge sales tax on solar costs.

Additionally, people who buy a vehicle that runs on electricity drawn from a plug-in rechargeable battery may be eligible to claim the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit, worth up to $7,500. To qualify for the plug-in electric drive motor vehicle tax credit, the vehicle purchase must satisfy a number of criteria, including the vehicle must be new and have four wheels, among other details.

Localized solar installation and EV purchase programs are available through some Minnesota communities and utilities, but have limited funding and are first-come, first-served. Once these funds are depleted, there is no guarantee of their return in the future, as was shown last year when the Iowa legislature let the state’s solar tax incentives expire.

With the retail prices of gasoline, natural gas and electricity expected to rise for the foreseeable future, it's worth considering renewable and alternative energies to lock in or reduce costs. Additionally, finding reliable and local power sources has become more important than ever. Solar panels generate and transmit energy to the immediate community for 30 years or more once installed. As for energy to charge an EV, it doesn't get more local than plugging into the charger in the garage.

Every step taken towards encouraging and using renewable, sustainable and local energy sources like solar is one step closer to helping Minnesota reach greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.


Courtesy of Sam Duane

 Sam Duane is a solar information specialist for All Energy Solar. This family-owned, Minnesota-based company has performed more than 6,500 installations throughout the state and beyond. All Energy Solar provides full-service solar energy solutions for residential, commercial, agricultural and government customers. For more information or to get a complimentary evaluation for a property, visit AllEnergySolar.com.




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Read the full July 2022 Magazine