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An Overview of Solar Energy Usage in North Dakota

North Dakota has the reputation for being a cold state, with long winters. There is some truth to that reputation. With that noted, North Dakota does have more sunny days than any other U.S. states along the Canadian border. Therefore, because the state does outrank the others that border the U.S. neighbor to the north, you may be wondering about how solar energy is utilized in the state of North Dakota.

Solar Power: A Little Used Resource in North Dakota

At this juncture in time, solar energy is a little used resource in the state of North Dakota. Indeed, North Dakota ranks in last place when contrasted with all other U.S. states when it comes to solar energy use. North Dakota even ranks under the other U.S. Canadian border states that enjoy less sunny days than North Dakota.

As of 2017, North Dakota has a meager installed solar capacity of 220 kW. There are a variety of reasons why North Dakota is in last place when it comes to the utilization of solar energy.

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North Dakota Governmental Solar Energy Policy

Advocates for the use of solar energy maintain that the government of North Dakota has established polices that are decidedly "anti-solar energy." This seems to be particularly the case when it comes to the state's "net metering policy." In the state of North Dakota, a home or business owner that takes advantage of solar energy. (As an aside, North Dakota technically does not have a true net metering policy because meters are not read monthly.)

A home or business owner's utilization of solar energy is reconciled monthly. A home or business owner utilizing solar energy obtains what can best be described as a credit for that usage up to a specific amount each month. If a consumer exceeds this amount, rather than obtain an additional credit, or have the additional credited amount roll over into the next month, or a future month, the home or business owner loses the credit all together. In other words, a home or business owner ultimately is penalized for using "too much" solar energy in a particular month.

This policy is considered to be one of the worst in the nation. If continuous rollover was permitted, as is the case in some other states, during the winter months, a consumer could apply the excess credits earned in the summer time during a time period when less energy can be generated via solar power.

Primary Types of Solar Power Uses in North Dakota

There are two primary ways in which solar power is being utilized in North Dakota. First, solar panels are being utilized on residential and commercial buildings. This is not as widespread as is the case in many states. Moreover, this utilization is subject to the limitations just discussed.

The second way in which solar energy is being utilized in North Dakota involves pumping water at remote wells. Supplying power to remote wells has long been a notable problem in North Dakota.

Utilizing traditional means to supply power to remove wells in North Dakota required the installation of power lines. The installation of power lines costs an average of $15,0000 per mile. This could result in what really might be called astronomical costs to provide necessary power to remote wells.

With the utilization of solar panels at remote well sites, a mere $800 is expended to provide the setup for necessary power. The expense of installing solar panels at these sites logs in at under $1,000, not matter where the pump and well is located in the state of North Dakota.

The geographic location is such that the construction of solar farms is not economically advisable at this time. Generally speaking, the determination in the industry is that there is not enough sunshine in the state to generate enough electricity within a specified period of time to assist in offsetting the costs of solar farm construction.

Noting this fiscal reality associated with solar farms in North Dakota, the costs associated with constructing these facilities continues to decrease. In other words, at some juncture in the future, when a cost and benefit analysis is run, solar farms may be considered more financial feasible in the state of North Dakota.

Solar Energy Research

Despite limited use of solar energy in the state, North Dakota State University is involved in research associated with solar energy. This includes work on applications that may render solar energy more widely useful in North Dakota in the not too distant future.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.