- Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard will partner on the $25 million, 10 megawatt Camp Ripley solar array, which is larger than any existing solar farm in the state.
- The project will help the Guard meet Defense Department directives for increased efficiency and renewable energy by cutting its grid electricity use by 30% and allow the utility to meet almost a third of its 1.5% solar by 2020 state mandate.
- Scheduled to be online by 2016, the project will connect to the Camp’s smart grid, which includes backup generators to provide power in the event of an outage, and will send excess electricity into Minnesota Power’s system at periods of peak solar production, earning a return for the Guard.
Minnesota Power is exploring the limits of solar in the state’s north, where peak capacity is only about 17% of the year’s hours and mining and manufacturing companies need electricity 24/7. The utility’s goal is to get a third of its power from renewables — solar, wind and hydro — by 2025, with another third coming from natural gas, and the last third from coal.
Minnesota’s biggest solar array now in operation is a 2 megawatt installation owned by Ecos Energy that delivers power to Xcel Energy. A 600 kilowatt system is atop the Minneapolis Convention Center, a 400 kilowatt system is at St. John's University, a 105 kilowatt system is at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regional headquarters, and a 30 kilowatt test system is atop Duluth’s Government Services Center. The proposed 100 megawatt Aurora Solar Project — which would be the largest solar farm in the state when built — is scheduled to be built by Geronimo Energy for Xcel Energy in 2015 and 2016.
Minnesota Power expects to meet more of its mandated 33 megawatts of solar with 4 megawatts of rooftop installations and much of the balance with brownfield installations.