A US judge has delivered a ruling that will have a substantial impact on two major energy producing industries: solar power and natural gas. This judge has ruled, for the first time ever, that solar power delivered without subsidies is more effective than natural gas. This single ruling could very well lead to more than 20 solar farms being constructed throughout Minnesota. The ruling has caused quite the stir in the US energy sector.

Judge Eric Lipman recommended that one of Minnesota’s largest utilities, Xcel Energy, should continue their plan to invest in a series of solar arrays that would be placed throughout the state. The plan had initially been put on hold by the state’s Public Utilities Commission until it could be determined how to fund and support the project.

Two rival projects focused on natural gas, proposed by Xcel’s rivals Calpine Cor and Invenergy, were deemed less economical and less sustainable than the solar energy project. Judge Lipman primarily favored the scalability offered by Xcel and partner Geronimo’s proposal. Xcel and Geronimo plan to install 20 solar plants over the next two years at a cost of $250m apiece. Once all of the plants are up and running they will provide over 130MW of new energy for Minnesotans.

The judge also favored the plans ability to satisfy new state-regulated targets passed last year that mandate that utilities generate at least 1.5 percent of their power from solar sources by the year 2020

However, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has yet to weigh in on the matter, and the projects fate is in their hands. Despite the judges ruling, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has recently warned Xcel not to undertake any new solar projects, as they had not been deemed cost-effective.

The battle over solar in Minnesota is just one of many that are facing the fledgling solar industry. Fights are raging throughout the US as businessmen and legislators struggle to address the questions and concerns surrounding the young industry.

Fortunately, rulings like the one delivered by Judge Lipman will help further solar’s cause, while increased viability as a cost-effective option to traditional grid power will continue to fuel the industry’s future growth.

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