Only Wikipedia is accurately tracking solar PV capacity in Minnesota

GreenTech Media recently showed that the main energy statistics agency for the United States, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) was missing information on a whopping 45 percent of installed solar PV. The problem is with their methodology – they don’t count customer-sited solar, like systems on rooftops. GreenTech found that actual solar production was 50 percent higher than official estimates. Three states (CA, AZ, HI) now get more than 5 percent of their electricity from solar, something you wouldn’t know if you only consulted EIA.

Data for Minnesota is even worse. Users of wikipedia will get a far more accurate assessment (which is based on the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s annual solar market trends report).

EIA data says that Minnesota produced no electricity from solar in 2012, and 2.7 gigawatt hours in 2013. Here is the chart from their Electricity Browser:


In reality, Minnesota produced something like 18.7 gigawatt hours from solar PV in 2013, or 592 percent more than EIA estimates.

I didn’t just use wikipedia data to make this estimate, I used data from the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Annual Distributed Generation Interconnection Report, which utilities are required to submit each year showing existing and new DG facilities. The number above comes from only six utilities in Minnesota, which I think are some of the largest in terms of number of customers.


Here is the breakdown of installed capacity at the six utilities:


I couldn’t find a report on total installed PV capacity or production on Commerce’s website, but it could be hidden in dockets somewhere.

If you’re looking for accurate data on the growth of distributed generation, like solar, you can’t (yet) count on EIA. GreenTech outlines a bunch of reasons why this is important, including making the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to regulate existing power plants look harder to accomplish than it might be.

In Minnesota, solar is a small (0.04% of total generation in 2014), but growing part of the energy mix. Accurately tracking this growth is important for making good policy, especially in regards to distributed (customer-owned) generation, which is usually outside the control of utility planning processes.

Mapping the Twin Cities bike counts

View Larger Map

Much has already been written about the 2011 bike counts: the great news that counts continue to climb, how we might use them to prioritize infrastructure improvements, and even what grains of salt we should consume along with the data.  But I haven’t seen anyone map them yet.

So here’s my contribution.  Circle size represents 2011 count totals.  These are also the true counts, not extrapolated to annual numbers (I don’t think those numbers have even been released yet).

Cross-posted at

Census: Minneapolis bike commuting remains steady, transit grows

New American Community Survey 1-year estimates are out for large places, which means we can check in on commuting information for our #1 bike city, Minneapolis.

  • Bike commuting seems to be remaining steady (within the margin of error)
  • Transit is up beyond the margin of error
  • Carpooling continues it’s descent
  • Working at home continues to increase slowly
The above chart is courtesy of the City of Minneapolis.

More Evidence Cycling is Increasing in the Twin Cities, Increases follow Investments

2 hour Bicycle Count Comparison 2007 & 2010 Downtown/University

Bike Walk Twin Cities does an annual count of cycling and walking at a number of locations around the Minneapolis.  Their latest report compares 2010 to 2007 counts and finds big increases.

From 2007-2010, bicycling increased by 33% overall, with the highest volume increases (number of cyclists) at such locations as the Franklin Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River, the Midtown Greenway, the Cedar Lake Trail under I-394, and at the Sabo Bridge.

Walking also increased from 2007-2010, by 17%, with the highest volume increases (number of people walking) along Riverside Avenue, Cedar Avenue south of Riverside, and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Their data also seems to show a correlation between new infrastructure and walking and cycling increases.

The rates of bicycling and walking are up in the Twin Cities, even in locations without new bicycling and walking infrastructure. However, the data for locations with new facilities, such as the Sabo Bridge (160% increase overall) and the Riverside Ave nue corridor (up 83%) show that dramatic increases follow investments.

This is consistent with trends shown in the latest American Community Survey data.  The full report, maps, tables and lots of other good stuff from the counts can be found on the Bike Walk Twin Cities website.

ACS: Minneapolis Neighborhoods See Big Gains in Bike Mode Share

On-street bike parking at the Birchwood Cafe in Seward

New American Community Survey data is out, which gives us the first look at Census Tract-level data since 2000.  I pulled out some transportation data for the Twin Cities metro, and previously looked at trip-to-work mode share changes for the region.  Cycling and telecommuting showed gains, carpooling and driving alone showed losses.

These small changes don’t seem that interesting, until you start to dive into the data.  Since cycling gained mode share, it’s worth exploring in more detail where these gains are happening.  Are the gains happening uniformly across the metro, or in specific areas?  What places have the highest bicycle mode share?  What do the changes mean for infrastructure and transportation planning?  Attempts at answers are after the break. Continue reading

ACS Data Dive: Twin Cities Mode Share Changes

New 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey are out, which give everyone the first update of Census tract-level data since the 2000 Census.  If you haven’t explored the New York Times Mapping America tool for some of the broader trends (race, income, housing and education), make sure to check it out.

I pulled out some journey to work data (mode and travel time) for the seven county Twin Cities area since the New York Times didn’t include any transportation information and I was curious.  I’ll be sharing some interesting things I find over the next week.  You can download my raw data set here.

The first thing I looked at was simply the change in mode share for travel to work for the metro as a whole.  Mode share increased for working at home (which could be telecommuting) and bicycling.  Mode share for telecommuting rose almost 3/4 of a percent, while bicycling was up a little less than 1/2 of a percent.  However, if you look at change in total commuters for each mode, the number of cycling commuters increased over 90% since 2000, while the number of telecommuters increased 25%.  Driving alone, carpooling and walking all lost mode share, noticeably, carpooling was down over 1 percentage point.  Transit stayed nearly static.

Next time I’ll dive a little deeper into these changes in bike and telecommuting mode share and map how changes are happening across the metro.