Dakota Electric, along with its wholesale power supplier Great River Energy, is in the process of installing a 20-kW solar array in Farmington. Construction on the project, located at the southeast corner of Highway 50 and Denmark Avenue, is scheduled to be completed this month.

“We are happy to have this solar project installed in our service territory,” CEO Greg Miller said. “Our members will benefit from the solar output as we, along with Great River Energy, learn about the performance of solar with this local project.”GRE solar image

In addition to the Farmington solar site, Great River Energy is working with 17 other member cooperatives throughout the state to construct similar solar arrays. In total, more than 600 kW of new solar energy installations are expected to be in service by the fall of 2015.

“These projects are teaching us and our member-cooperatives a lot about how solar performs and what it takes to plan, finance and execute a solar project,” said Great River Energy senior engineering project manager Andy Bergrud. “We are learning a lot about the industry in general with this effort.”

At its headquarters building in Maple Grove, Great River Energy recently completed construction on a 250-kW solar array. The project will measure the performance of different panel technologies, assess the benefits of a variety of inverters and document lessons learned while designing, permitting and installing the solar array.

“Our industry continues to evolve,” said Rick Lancaster, vice president of generation at Great River Energy. “As an organization, we need to understand how these technologies may affect our business now and in the future, as well as research the impacts to our distribution system and evaluate the overall costs to integrate both large- and small-scale solar installations.”

In the future, Dakota Electric will place a display on the company’s webpage that will show the solar panel’s actual output.