‘Bee-friendly’ solar + storage project in the works for Grand Rapids Public Utilities

US Solar and Minnesota Power announced that they have entered into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for a solar-plus-storage project in the City of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This project is the result of collaboration between US Solar, Minnesota Power, Grand Rapids Public Utilities, the Itasca Clean Energy Team, and the City of Grand Rapids.

US Solar is developing the two-megawatt solar array and one-megawatt/2.5-hour energy storage battery on city-owned land near the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport. The energy produced by the solar panels can be stored in the adjacent battery to be dispatched during times of high energy demand or when the sun is not shining. The solar array will include single-axis trackers and bifacial modules which significantly increase the efficiency of the solar array.

“This project is an impressive feat of collaboration,” said Reed Richerson, US Solar’s Chief Operating Officer. “It represents the culmination of a successful effort between a city, a municipal utility, an investor-owned utility, and a privately-owned solar developer to bring the benefits of clean, renewable energy to Grand Rapids.”

Environmental benefits to the local community extend beyond the increase in carbon-free, renewable energy. US Solar plans to install a diverse mix of pollinator-friendly, low lying, deep-rooted plants throughout the array. This native pollinator habitat supports bees, butterflies, and other local wildlife. This vegetation has also been proven to decrease stormwater runoff and improve the quality of soil, water, and air.

The solar-plus-storage project also positively impacts the local economy. The project represents over $6 million in private investment and will support over 25 construction jobs. Over the course of the project term, it will generate over $465,000 in local tax revenue and land lease payments that will benefit the City of Grand Rapids and its residents. Additionally, Grand Rapids Public Utilities ratepayers will receive affordable, reliable, clean energy throughout the 25-year life span of the project.

“We are excited to be working with US Solar again on this community-driven solar-plus-storage project that will support local manufacturing and bring more carbon-free energy to the region,” said Julie Pierce, Vice President of Minnesota Power Strategy and Planning. “We are reaching a significant milestone of delivering 50 percent renewable energy to our customers by the end of this year.”

Rick Blake, Grand Rapids City Councilor and Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commissioner, added, “This project started years ago with a spark from the Itasca Clean Energy Team. So, kudos to them because without their continuous support, this project wouldn’t have happened.”

The project is expected to be producing clean energy for Grand Rapids Public Utilities customers by the end of 2021.

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