A new Grand Rapids community solar project received full approval from the Grand Rapids Public Utilities (GRPU) Commission recently. During a Nov. 18 meeting, the commission authorized Minnesota Power to partner with US Solar for a new development intended to benefit residents of Grand Rapids, MN. The development will include a community solar garden and battery storage, making it the first of its kind for Northern Minnesota.
The new solar facility has had ample support from local organizations, including the Itasca Clean Energy Team (ICET). Made primarily of local citizens, ICET is dedicated to bringing clean, renewable energy to Minnesota. According to ICET members, bringing solar to the region has been a discussion since a community forum focused on renewable energy. The idea stemmed from a group of residents who expressed a desire to bring solar to Grand Rapids.
Originally, the Grand Rapids community solar project was meant to be a 1-megawatt facility. This would have been enough solar energy capacity to power more than 300 homes. Based on the plan proposed during the forum, homeowners and small business owners could subscribe to the solar facility and draw power from the energy it generates.
Over a span of several years, ICET worked with the community and the GRPU Commission to design the plans for the solar garden. Organizations throughout Minnesota lent their expertise, including the Blandin Foundation, the University of Minnesota’s Rural Sustainable Development Program, and the Clean Energy Resort Team.
When the Grand Rapids community solar facility is completed, it will be double the size of the expected array. Currently, Minnesota Power and US Solar are looking at a 2-megawatt facility to deliver upwards of 8% of the region’s annual power needs. The current planned location is a 15-acre plot of City-owned land. Casper Construction was awarded the grading contract, and construction is expected to be completed in time for a November 2021 operational date.
ICET’s Bill Schnell confirmed that customers who subscribe to the facility will benefit from lower utility rates without having to install private rooftop panels.