Solar Array Coming to Cook County

In partnership with Arrowhead Cooperative, Great River Energy (GRE) will build a 20-kW solar array at Arrowhead Cooperative’s headquarters site, 5401 Minnesota Highway 61 in Lutsen. The Lutsen solar array is one of 18 20-kW arrays GRE is installing throughout its service area in Minnesota, in addition to the recently completed 250-kW solar array at its headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn. The solar array will generate renewable electricity while also providing information on how distributed generation solar facilities like this can best be used by electric cooperatives. Construction will begin in October and GRE expects it will be completed and in-service by the end of October. GRE will be using panels from tenKsolar, which are assembled in Minnesota. The system will consist of 48 solar panels, arranged in six rows of eight panels.

What is Community Solar?

Several of the cooperatives in Minnesota that are getting these arrays are also planning to add their own community solar installation.  Community solar is a solar-electric system that is owned by multiple community members. The members receive power or financial benefit from their ownership. In most utility-sponsored projects, utility customers participate by contributing either an up-front or ongoing payment to support a solar project. In exchange, customers receive a payment or credit on their electric bills that is proportional to their contribution and also based on how much electricity the solar project produces. In this way utility customers who wish to support solar power have an opportunity to do so at a much lower cost than an individual installation.

Community Solar in Lutsen?

Working with GRE on the solar array in Lutsen gives Arrowhead Cooperative an opportunity to consider adding an additional array using the community solar model. We are working now to answer many questions, starting with whether our members are interested in community solar. In order for the project to go forward, we’d need to have enough members invest in the solar array to offset the cost, so that the full membership doesn’t need to pay for the installation. We are working with GRE and other cooperatives that have gone through this process to learn more about costs, membership options, and best practices. Look for more information throughout the summer and early fall as we learn more about our options.

For more information about GRE’s solar projects visit http://www.greatriverenergy.com/makingelectricity/renewables/solar.html

2 Responses to “Solar Array Coming to Cook County”

  1. Brian Rambol says:

    Do you think that our co-op can stay focused on internet which most of us have been waiting a very long time? Solar panels are nice but is it important at this exact time?

    • mwickwire says:

      Hi Brian,
      You are right, we do have a lot going at Arrowhead Cooperative! We have several major projects in the electric plant, including constructing a power line to serve members between Grand Portage and the Canadian border and major system improvements to support construction at Lutsen Mountains. Our fiber-to-the-home project is continuing. On the horizon we have a new metering system to select and implement. Is this the right time for solar?
      We believe it is, in part because this project is largely run by Great River Energy. They will oversee construction and are responsible for the financing. This is a great opportunity for Arrowhead Cooperative to benefit from GRE’s expansion of its solar installations. One of the many factors we are considering as we decide whether or not to offer Community Solar here will be the time commitment from staff to run the program.
      We have dedicated staff working on the broadband project, in addition to a contracted project manager who is on site daily and supervising construction. Broadband has been slow to arrive in Cook County, but it is worth the wait. We have 200 homes and businesses connected to our fiber service and many, many more scheduled for installation this month. GRE’s construction of the solar array, and our evaluation of Community Solar options, will not delay that process at all.
      Thanks for keeping up with our news postings. We’re always happy to hear from our members.