This week our linemen finished installing and powering the distribution lines from Grand Portage to the Canadian Border. This area had been served by lines from Ontario’s Hydro One power supplier, but the service was not as reliable as we wanted for our members. This summer we have tackled the daunting task of burying power lines along the rocky shoulders of Highway 61 and installing new overhead distribution lines to finally connect these members to the rest of the county. Check out our Facebook page for some great pictures of the guys finishing the work. Thanks to all the patient and friendly members in Grand Portage and beyond who kept us company and cheered us on during this major project.
In partnership with Arrowhead Cooperative, Great River Energy (GRE) will build a 20-kW solar array at Arrowhead Cooperative’s headquarters site, 5401 Minnesota Highway 61 in Lutsen. The Lutsen solar array is one of 18 20-kW arrays GRE is installing throughout its service area in Minnesota, in addition to the recently completed 250-kW solar array at its headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn. The solar array will generate renewable electricity while also providing information on how distributed generation solar facilities like this can best be used by electric cooperatives. Construction will begin in October and GRE expects it will be completed and in-service by the end of October. GRE will be using panels from tenKsolar, which are assembled in Minnesota. The system will consist of 48 solar panels, arranged in six rows of eight panels.
What is Community Solar?
Several of the cooperatives in Minnesota that are getting these arrays are also planning to add their own community solar installation. Community solar is a solar-electric system that is owned by multiple community members. The members receive power or financial benefit from their ownership. In most utility-sponsored projects, utility customers participate by contributing either an up-front or ongoing payment to support a solar project. In exchange, customers receive a payment or credit on their electric bills that is proportional to their contribution and also based on how much electricity the solar project produces. In this way utility customers who wish to support solar power have an opportunity to do so at a much lower cost than an individual installation.
Community Solar in Lutsen?
Working with GRE on the solar array in Lutsen gives Arrowhead Cooperative an opportunity to consider adding an additional array using the community solar model. We are working now to answer many questions, starting with whether our members are interested in community solar. In order for the project to go forward, we’d need to have enough members invest in the solar array to offset the cost, so that the full membership doesn’t need to pay for the installation. We are working with GRE and other cooperatives that have gone through this process to learn more about costs, membership options, and best practices. Look for more information throughout the summer and early fall as we learn more about our options.
For more information about GRE’s solar projects visit http://www.greatriverenergy.com/makingelectricity/renewables/solar.html