Solar Delight

Even with its short days Minnesota has climbed on board the solar bus. We already have huge wind farms in Southwest Minnesota and the hope is to “interface” wind and solar to maximize effect. This is very good news. We are taking baby steps, but they are headed in the right direction!

(Along these lines, readers might want to check out my article in the current Empirical magazine, “Fiddling While Rome Burns,” which draws heavily from the blogs of my blog-buddy the “old fart,” as I gratefully acknowledge at the end of the article.)

Minnesota’s largest solar installation begins producing electricity


The largest solar-electric generator in Minnesota has flipped on the switch — the latest sign of a banner year for solar installations.

Renewable power developer Ecos Energy said 7,040 solar panels outside of Slayton, Minn., began producing power Friday after being connected to Xcel Energy’s distribution system. The solar array is the largest in the state, with 2 megawatts of output, the equivalent of the power used by 250 homes.

The project has 32 rows of solar panels covering an area the size of 7 1/2 football fields on what once was a cornfield.

“There was no celebration, but it is nice to get these things running,” said Chris Little, director of development for Ecos Energy, based in Minneapolis.

Solar installations are up dramatically in Minnesota and across the United States. In Minnesota, twice as much solar capacity was installed in 2012 compared with the prior year, as more than 250 projects, large and small, went online, state data shows.

That list doesn’t include the Slayton project, which came online in 2013. It does include the solar array atop the Bloomington Ikea store completed in August. Ikea briefly held the state record for the biggest solar generator, at 1 megawatt, and now slips to No. 2.

Across the country, new solar installations through the third quarter already were ahead of 2011’s, thanks partly to a steady drop in solar panel prices, according to a GTM Research report for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“We expect business to grow considerably in 2013 and 2014,” said Doug Fredrickson, vice president of operations for Blattner Energy, which constructed the Slayton project. “The indicators are really strong. The technology is improving, and the price of panels is going down — you can hardly keep up with the reductions.”. .  . .

Though the Slayton project is Minnesota’s largest, its output pales in comparison with solar installations being built in California. Last week, MidAmerican Solar, a unit of Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway, announced it would purchase the world’s largest planned solar development, with an output of 579 megawatts, in southern California. NextEra Energy is planning a 250-megawatt concentrated solar project near Blythe, Calif., for which Blattner Energy is the construction manager.

In Minnesota, Xcel’s separate Solar Rewards program helped installers add 3.7 megawatts of solar power this year, up 150 percent from 2011, the utility said. That program subsidizes smaller installations for homes and businesses.

Nystuen said Xcel will continue to “explore the potential benefits of solar” and anticipates requesting proposals for development fund grants for systems of up to 1 megawatt. Those projects, she said, likely would not involve selling power to the grid.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090 Twitter: @ShafferStrib


4 thoughts on “Solar Delight

  1. This Old Fart likes this story very much. Thanks for the shout out as well. I look forward to seeing the final article. The fact that Warren Buffett is investing in solar as well as wind (through GE) is very illuminating. If the fossil fuel industry continues to keep its head in the sand, they will wake up and find this industry is passing them by irrespective of the naysaying they perpetuate. Well done, BTG

  2. last month i signed up for the free three-month digital edition, but i assume that a summary sent to my inbox is that digital edition. i am sorely disappointed that i wasn’t able to see your article, or maybe i overlooked a prompt.

    i’ll check again tomorrow.

    congratulations that your state’s adapting to solar and wind power.

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