Camp Ripley's solar project
Camp Ripley is a big military facility that makes big noises during summer artillery drills. The Minnesota Army National Guard camp made big noise in another light recently when it announced a partnership with Minnesota Power to build a $25 milli...
Camp Ripley is a big military facility that makes big noises during summer artillery drills. The Minnesota Army National Guard camp made big noise in another light recently when it announced a partnership with Minnesota Power to build a $25 million solar farm that will provide the camp with much of its power in the future.
The 10 megawatt - equal to 10 million watts - solar farm will be the largest contiguous solar farm in Minnesota. For comparison purposes, the current largest solar farm in Minnesota is near Slayton. It's a 2 megawatt facility that creates enough energy for 250 homes. Camp Ripley's solar farm will generate enough energy to power 250 homes. The Camp Ripley site is expected to some day cut the National Guard camp's energy bills by 30 percent.
This improvement to Camp Ripley is a welcome one. Not only will it provide backup generation for energy security at Camp Ripley, but the public-private partnership will help the camp meet conservation objectives outlined by the Department of Defense and Minnesota Power meet a state mandate to add solar to its mix of energy sources.
As with any big project there is a price tag involved.
Col. Larry Herke, construction and facilities management officer with the National Guard, said Minnesota Power will own and maintain the solar grid and spend the estimated $25 million for the project. In addition to gaining more energy security, he said the camp will receive consideration from the utility for the land and assistance in meeting its electricity conservation goals.
It will be interesting to learn how soon camp officials expect it will take for the reduced energy costs to pay back the $25 million cost of the project. Those projections weren't presented in the Aug. 27 news release on the project and weren't immediately available when an inquiry was made on Friday.
Solar energy might not be the answer to every energy concern but existing projects prove that when it's applied to the right job it can yield amazing results. We need to continue to explore a variety of options to a reliance on fossil fuel-based energy. The Camp Ripley-Minnesota Power project could open the eyes of both government and private enterprise to practical applications of solar energy.