Dakota Electric dedicates sun-tracking solar facility

Dakota Electric Association (DEA) members are now receiving more electricity from the sun through a new 2-megawatt solar facility built specifically for the cooperative’s members.

ENGIE, a multinational electric utility company, built and owns the solar facility on behalf of Great River Energy. Through a power purchase contract with GRE, DEA purchases all the solar output for delivery to its member-owners.

DEA’s board of directors, along with Great River Energy and ENGIE personnel, recently held a dedication.

Dakota Electric Solar dedication

Pictured at the dedication event are, from left, Mark Rathbun, manager of renewable energy resources at Great River Energy; Doug Larson, vice president of regulatory services, Dakota Electric Association; Davin Peterson, engineering services manager, Dakota Electric Association; and Mike Fosse, vice president of energy and member services, Dakota Electric Association.

The 15-acre solar site in Hampton Township, Minnesota, is expected to have a 25-year life and will produce enough electricity to power about 300 average homes. The 7,776 panels, which track the sun as it moves through the sky, will produce more than 3 million kilowatt-hours of power annually.

“We are pleased to provide this renewable energy resource to our members,” DEA’s CEO Greg Miller said. “This project will add to our existing wholesale renewable portfolio that includes wind, solar and hydro.”

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington; Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake; and Public Utilities Commissioner John Tuma attended the event along with representatives from Conservation Minnesota, CURE and Center for Energy and Environment.

“As Dakota Electric’s power supplier, Great River Energy is honored to facilitate this solar energy supply by partnering with ENGIE to develop, build and operate the facility over the next 25 years,” said Mark Rathbun, manager of renewable resources at Great River Energy. “Over this time, Dakota Electric members will see economic and environmental benefits from this partnership.”

An added benefit is that the grounds at the solar site are planted with pollinator-friendly plants, so once mature, they will provide habitat that is helpful to bees and other pollinators.