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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Minnesota Power, National Guard partner in Camp Ripley projects
Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard are working jointly to build a major solar energy project at Camp Ripley, the largest military base in Minnesota.
The solar farm and backup generation will be designed and constructed to allow Camp Ripley to use the energy produced by the project during infrequent periods when the electric grid is down, providing enhanced energy security for the site.
The partners signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday outlining plans to build a 10-megawatt solar energy array at the central Minnesota camp, which is located about 20 miles south of Brainerd. The project will be the largest solar energy installation on military property in the state. Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE Inc., will also identify ways to help Camp Ripley reduce its energy usage by 30 percent.
The solar project envisioned by Minnesota Power and the Guard will cover nearly 100 acres of government property at the camp.
“I’m pleased to work in partnership with the National Guard to answer the nation’s call to transform our energy landscape,” ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Al Hodnik said in the announcement.
Minnesota Power will develop its solar energy portfolio just as it has expanded its Bison Wind Energy Center, which has become the largest wind farm in North Dakota, Hodnik said. He anticipates the solar project will attract employment and new business to the region.
“The Minnesota National Guard is committed to working with local partners in the government and the private sector, like Minnesota Power, to assist us in our pursuit of sustainable infrastructure,” said Minnesota National Guard Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash.
At 10 megawatts, it will be among Minnesota’s largest single-site solar arrays, producing more electricity than the base normally requires, according to the partners. During non-emergency operation, the solar energy produced will flow into Minnesota Power’s electric service territory.
The projected cost is $25 million with completion expected in the 2015-2016 time frame.
“Completion of the Camp Ripley solar project will help Minnesota Power achieve about one-third of its requirement under the state’s new solar mandate,” said Al Rudeck, vice president strategy and planning. At the same time, the project will help the Minnesota National Guard meet energy conservation objectives outlined by the Department of Defense.
Part of the memorandum signed Wednesday outlines how Minnesota Power will install reciprocating engines at Camp Ripley that will provide capacity and peaking energy to Minnesota Power, operated through remote dispatch during periods when energy market conditions call on it, and provide backup emergency generation to Camp Ripley.
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