The growth of solar is helping bring clean power to places not normally associated with abundant sunshine. The pairing of solar with utility scale storage is expanding that reach even further.
Last month, purveyors of power announced a unique partnership in the upper Midwest.
Minnesota Power has teamed up with the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission, the Itasca Clean Energy Team and U.S. Solar to bring a solar plus batter system to Grand Rapids, Minn.
It is the first such pairing for the region and the first project of its kind for the retail electricity service provider that introduced it.
The system will include a 2 megawatt (MW) solar array and a 1 MW, 2.5-hour battery. Grand Rapids is Minnesota Power’s largest municipal wholesale power customer and provides power to about 7,000 customers.
The array is being developed on a site near the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport. The project is expected to support more than 25 construction jobs.
Energy generated by the solar panels can be stored in the adjacent battery and then dispatched when demand for energy is high or when the sun isn’t shining.
The project came from humble beginnings. Five years ago, a small group of local citizens organized themselves as the Itasca Clean Energy Team and started promoting a community solar garden in Grand Rapids. It evolved into the solar plus storage project now underway.
Part of Minnesota Power's EnergyForward strategy, the solar plus storage project is one of several. The company plans to add approximately 20 MW of utility-scale solar energy in 2021, including 10 MW installations at the company's Laskin Energy Center and near the company’s Sylvan Hydro Station near Brainerd. There are also plans for a 3 MW project on a proposed site in Duluth.