U.S. firm completes $4.4M Community Solar project for Minnesota town

Dec. 7, 2021
The energy stored in the battery storage system will be deployed at peak times, resulting in annual demand charge savings of up to $200,000

A partnership led by US Solar and Minnesota Power has completed a 2-MW solar array and adjacent battery storage project near the airport at Grand Rapids.

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation provided a $230,000 Community Infrastructure grant to the city of Grand Rapids to install a 2MW solar array and a 2.5-MWh lithium-ion battery storage system near the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport. The solar array and battery storage system was set up across 15 acres of land near the airport, Business North reported.

The $4,406,650 million project will supply the renewable solar power to the Grand Rapids Public Utilities (GRPU) existing power supply. The energy stored in the battery storage system will be deployed at peak times, resulting in annual demand charge savings of up to $200,000, according to the companies.

US Solar has constructed the system and owns and operates it. Other project partners include city of Grand Rapids, GRPU, Itasca Clean Energy Team and Minnesota Power. US Solar has a 25-year contract with Minnesota Power for purchasing the power.

“Minnesota Power is proud to be a partner on this community-driven innovative project," Julie Pierce, utility vice president of strategy and planning, said in a statement to Business North. "As the first utility in the state to deliver 50% renewable energy to its customers, we look forward to gaining new insights about solar-plus-storage technology while working closely with a valued municipal customer and our partners in Grand Rapids to bring more carbon-free energy to the region.”

US Solar purchased approximately half of the solar panels from Heliene USA, Inc., a local photovoltaic solar module manufacturer in Mountain Iron. Additional local economic impacts were created from the project’s location on unused land adjacent to the airport. The once vacant property is now productive and taxable, and the income received from the land lease to US Solar will be used to support the airport’s operational costs as stipulated by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).

“The loss of commercial air service in 2004 at our local airport dramatically reduced the airport’s federal funding,” said Julie Kennedy, GRPU general manager. “The airport is a critical economic asset to our area that must be adequately maintained for private commercial and general aviation use. The commercial leasing of the 15-acre property will generate approximately $15,000 of annual funding for the airport during the 25-year term lease with US Solar.”