Nearly 300 people gathered in Rockford, Minnesota on September 9th for a celebration, ribbon cutting, and tour of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association’s “Solar Community,” the first community solar project completed in Minnesota.
CERTs staff members Lissa Pawlisch, Diana McKeown, and Trevor Drake attended to help celebrate this milestone for Minnesota.
While snacking on cheese and wine, attendees had the opportunity to follow a tour of the panel system from tenKsolar (Bloomington, MN) and the battery storage system from Silent Power (Baxter, MN) led by Wright-Hennepin’s President of Technology Operations, Steve Nisbet. Afterward, the crowd listened to speeches from Mark Vogt, CEO and President of Wright-Hennepin, Bill Grant, Deputy Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, and Mark Glaess, General Manager of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association.
But the real drivers of the new 40 kW, 171-panel system were community subscribers, who each bought at least one panel at $869 and have already begun receiving credit on their utility bill (you can view real-time system production here). The subscribers lined up on a grassy hill in front of the completed project to show their support and receive a piece of the giant ribbon used in the ceremony.
Wright-Hennepin’s project stands out not only as the first community solar project in Minnesota, but as a model for cooperative electric utilities that are looking to provide renewable energy opportunities to their member-owners. During the tour, Nisbet explained that while energy produced from the solar panels helps a little bit during peak usage periods, the battery system is a key innovation, as most of Wright-Hennepin’s peak usage occurs in the evening when the sun is setting or has already gone down.
Wright-Hennepin is already in the process of constructing a second solar community next to the first one.
Interested in learning more about the project, including photos and videos of construction? Check out our interview with Wright-Hennepin!