GRAND RAPIDS — A unique partnership between Minnesota Power, the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission, the Itasca Clean Energy Team (ICET), and US Solar is bringing the region’s solar-plus-battery storage system to Grand Rapids.
This endeavor is the result of several years of collaboration between the city’s municipal utility, the citizens group and Minnesota Power.
“Minnesota Power is proud to contribute our expertise and insight to this collaborative, community driven project,” said Julie Pierce, vice president Minnesota Power Strategy and Planning. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to implement and learn about solar-plus-storage technology while working closely with a valued municipal customer and our partners in Grand Rapids to bring more carbon-free energy to the region.”
US Solar, a Minneapolis based solar developer, is developing the array on a site near the Grand Rapids/ Itasca County Airport. 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 system will be built on about 15 acres of city-owned land, east of Home Depot. Construction site preparation is already underway, thanks to a grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. The project is expected to be producing energy for Grand Rapids Public Utilities Customers by the end of 2021. A pollinator garden is planned as part of the development.
“The Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission is excited to bring this project on line,” said Tom Stanley, commission president. “We have spent many years of working to find a way that we can provide renewable solar power along with battery storage to our system that benefits all of our ratepayers.”
Bill Schnell, leader of Itasca Clean Energy Team, said, “Almost five years ago a small group of local citizens organized themselves as the Itasca Clean Energy Team and started promoting a community solar garden here in Grand Rapids. Now through this project, we ended up with something better: the benefits of solar power, including lower electric rates, for every GRPU customer.”
Jeremy Goodell, GRPU Electric Department manager, said, “After several years of working with the Itasca Clean Energy Team and Minnesota Power, we are looking forward to bringing the first solar storage project to our region. By pairing a utility sized battery with a large-scale solar system, we will be able to store energy generated from the solar panels and use it during times when electrical power demand is higher.”
The project represents an investment of more than $6 million and is expected to support more than 25 construction jobs.