ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota Power solar projects in Duluth, Brainerd online by year end

A third in Hoyt Lakes will be up and running by spring.

Aerial view of a solar farm.
Minnesota Power’s Jean Duluth solar project, seen here Wednesday, will generate 1.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to power approximately 300 houses. It is the smallest of three solar farms, with a total capability of generating more than 22 megawatts, the utility is building.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — Two new solar projects in northern Minnesota will begin providing power to the grid by the end of the year, and a third will come online in the spring.

solar array.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Once all are operational, Minnesota Power's three projects will produce a combined 20 megawatts — enough solar energy to power approximately 4,000 homes.

The Duluth-based utility company on Wednesday held a celebration marking the completion of its 1.6-megawatt project on an 8.5-acre lot leased from the city of Duluth at the intersection of Jean Duluth and Riley roads.

Like the Duluth location, a larger 15-megawatt solar project at Minnesota Power's Sylvan Hydro Station near Brainerd will be operational by the end of the year.

The final project, a 5.6-megawatt solar project at its Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes, will be finished this spring.

ADVERTISEMENT

The three projects, costing a combined $40 million, were sped up during summer 2020 after Minnesota regulators urged utilities to jump start renewable energy projects to help with the state's COVID-19 economic recovery.

And it largely relied on local labor and materials. All 3,770 solar panels used at the Duluth site were manufactured at Heliene, Inc. in Mountain Iron.

Woman speaking.
Minnesota Power Project Manager Carrie Ryan talks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at the utility’s Jean Duluth solar project site.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"This is probably the most economically local project Minnesota Power has ever undertaken, which was intended from the early planning stages," said Minnesota Power Project Manager Carrie Ryan.

Lucas Franco, research manager at the Laborers' International Union of North America, in Minnesota and North Dakota, said the three projects created almost 40 "family sustaining construction jobs for local workers."

"All three of Minnesota Power's solar projects, including this one, used almost exclusively local laborers, vastly increasing the positive economic impact. Local workers spend three to four times more locally than non-local workers," Franco said.

Woman speaking.
Allete President and CEO Bethany Owen speaks Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"It's also in sharp contrast to what we've seen on other renewable energy projects by other companies, especially in southern Minnesota, that have not relied on local workers. So it's really a big deal."

And it gets Minnesota Power closer to its renewable energy goals, said Bethany Owen, chair, president and CEO of Allete, Minnesota Power's parent company.

"... It's an important step towards our reaching our vision of providing 100% free energy by 2050," Owen said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Solar panels.
The sun shines between photovoltaic cells in one of the 3,770 solar panels in Minnesota Power’s Jean Duluth solar farm Wednesday. The panels were manufactured in Mountain Iron.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
READ MORE
The standard now awaits a signature from Gov. Tim Walz, who said he supports the legislation.
A bill being fast-tracked by Democrats through the Legislature would require Minnesota utilities to have carbon-free electricity generation. It now awaits a vote of the full Senate.
The company plans to ask for another rate increase later this year.
The $10 million includes a provision pushed by Republicans to require Cleveland Cliffs to pay more in unemployment taxes in the future.
The first piece of climate legislation to see significant movement this session is a bill that would require Minnesota utilities to have 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2040.
The Baxter City Council will discuss the project Tuesday, Jan. 17.
It would also limit the window lawsuits could be filed to 120 days after the permit is issued.
One expert in the Minnesota solar industry said colder weather actually makes solar panels more efficient.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s solar report shows solar capacity and consumption has increased steadily since 2013. The industry believes expanding capabilities will lead to even more growth.
A winter storm warning is in effect for Wednesday, Dec. 21, through Saturday.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
What To Read Next
Subscribe and listen to the Brainerd Dispatch Minute at brainerddispatch.com, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
Brainerd High School and the Brainerd Family YMCA are partnering to offer a lifeguard class this semester and allow students to become certified through the American Red Cross.
Area school closings, delayed starts and early dismissals, business, event and meeting notices. Check back for updates to these listings.
Mom protects her cheeks with moleskin at ski meet.