Solar field nears completion in Lanesboro

April 30, 2019

The City of Lanesboro is getting amped up for the completion of a new solar field that is currently being constructed which will supply an average of 20% of the electricity for the town.

The solar array, located at the far southeast corner of the city, in the neighborhood known as Southern Hills, is a new and exciting venture for the City of Lanesboro.

OneEnergy Renewables, based in Seattle, Wash., began discussions with Organic Valley about forming a partnership to work with the local utility companies in Cashton, Wis., and La Farge, Wis., on a solar project.  

The plan was to have the local utilities purchase the electricity and capacity credits which Organic Valley would then buy as Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), but when EnergyOne presented its proposal to the utilities, they asked if the project could be spread out to more of their member communities, of which Lanesboro is included.  

OneEnergy identified  projects in 10 communities in total, located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.  As these 10 projects would provide power above and beyond what Organic Valley uses, other REC partners were sought. Although all of the power produced from the solar field will be utilized by the electric customers of Lanesboro, the excess RECs will be purchased by the Dr. Bronner’s Company based out of Vista, Calif., by paying a small amount for each kilowatt hour that is produced at the Lanesboro site.  

Dr. Bronner’s is a very impressive company offering a variety of organic soaps and personal care products and is committed to being environmentally friendly.  Dr. Bronner’s follows the values of the founder of the business, Emanuel Bronner, “By continuing making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating our profits to help make a better world,” according to the company’s website

Butter Solar, LLC is the project company and owns all 10 projects in the Butter Solar Portfolio, which includes the cities of Lanesboro and St. Charles in Minnesota, Forest City, Iowa, and seven cities in Wisconsin. Butter Solar, LLC is the company performing the installation of the solar panels.  The power produced from the Butter Solar Portfolio will be sold to Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group (UMMEG), which is a joint action agency that represents electricity providers in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

BluEarth Renewables acquired the development rights for the portfolio in December 2018, meaning they will be the long-standing owner and operator of the project, although OneEnergy will have representatives involved ensuring all commitments made to stakeholders are met.

OneEnergy is “an innovative developer of community and utility-scale solar energy projects in North America. Powered by the belief that the future will run on clean energy, our team delivers solar projects to communities, utilities, and commercial and institutional customers,” according to its website “We build trust with landowners, communities, and customers to help them achieve a cleaner, brighter energy future,” the website further states.

OneEnergy Renewables, Organic Valley and the UMMEG have worked together to create the new community solar partnership. 

Organic Valley is described as “America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand” on the OneEnergy Renewables website.  In October 2017, Organic Valley announced that it planned to become the largest food company in the world to source all of its electricity from renewable sources. In an attempt to reach this goal the cooperative has committed to buying energy credits from solar panels.

BluEarth Renewables is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  “We’re excited to be part of an industry that is transitioning the world to a low carbon future. Because of the nature of what we do, we attract passionate people who want to make a difference and leave the world a better place,” states the company’s website

The City of Lanesboro entered into an agreement with OneEnergy and BluEarth Renewables to purchase the power generated from the solar array, along with the hydro-electric generated by the dam, and a purchase power agreement with MiEnergy.

In a separate agreement, BluEarth Renewables has entered into a long-term lease with landowners Phil and Heidi Dybing.  The land was chosen due to its close proximity to the south water tower where the interconnect to the city electrical grid is located.  

“It’s a good project — it’s a good thing for the town — good use of the land,” states Phil.  “The land wasn’t much good for anything else,” he says of the 5.8 acres being leased for the solar field, as it had been farmed out many years ago.

“It’s more significant than the dam or hydroelectric by a long shot,” Phil expresses.  “It will be the lowest cost of power for the city,” he adds.  The residents of the City of Lanesboro are getting renewable, wholesale electricity and the city investment is minimal, according to Phil. “It’s a great deal for the city,” he says.  

The project is 600 kilowatts AC (inverter rating), and 936 kilowatts DC (panel rating).  There are a total of 2, 496 panels which are 375 watts each.  

Phil explained that the system is expected to produce about 1,245,000 kilowatt hours per year.  Using 2016 statistics, the City of Lanesboro used an approximate total of 6,130,000 kilowatt hours, which means the new solar field is expected to provided about 20% of the total electricity used by the city.   

The system is designed in a way that the maximum output of 600 kilowatts AC is expected to never, or rarely, exceed the minimum load of the city which means the vast majority of the electricity produced will stay within the city.

“I am excited that we are able to add more renewable energy into our system, adding to our history of hydro generation for the last 123 years,” states Lanesboro City Administrator Michele Peterson.   

“We purchase our electricity from MiEnergy, we then pay Dairyland to transmit the electricity to our system.  We then distribute the electricity to our rate payers,” explained Peterson.  “We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient, and ultimately pass those savings on to the rate payers,” she added.  

An eight-foot fence will be installed around the perimeter of the solar array, an access road will be created and there will be flowers planted underneath the panels.  The project is expected to be completed in early to mid June 2019, and plans for an open house are being discussed.

This post by  originally published in Fillmore County Journal.

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