As a member-owner of Great River Energy, we purchase 100 percent of our wholesale power from the cooperative. However, there is a provision in the wholesale power contract that allows distribution cooperatives, like Dakota Electric, to develop and install a small percentage of renewable energy for their own use.

About 10 years ago, Dakota Electric started looking at ways to take advantage of this option. And since 2014, we have developed three solar energy projects in our service area with a fourth planned to be commercially operating in early 2020.

The latest project, located near Randolph, was completed in December. This project is the largest to date and is unique because the solar panels move and track the sun each day. Watch for a time-lapse video on our website later this year showing how the panels track the sun.

The four solar projects combined will deliver more than 9,000,000 kWhs of solar energy annually to Dakota Electric members — enough energy to power approximately 1,100 homes.

Dakota Electric does not own or operate these solar generation systems. The project developer owns, operates and maintains these projects. Dakota Electric purchases the energy output from Great River Energy through their 25-year power purchase agreement with the developer. If the systems do not perform, Dakota Electric does not pay.

We look at several criteria when making decisions to move forward with each project. And one condition we strive to meet is to make sure the project is in the best interest of our members and the cooperative.

Building solar projects of this scale provides very competitive pricing that should benefit members  over the life of the projects.  And our research shows more than 70 percent of members feel it is important for utilities to provide more renewable energy.

While there is a lot of activity in the renewable energy market, there are still many opportunities to invest in energy efficiency, which is often the lowest-cost way to save energy and money.

Whether you are looking to install solar or looking for ways to save energy, Dakota Electric is here to help. Call the Energy Experts® at 651-463-6243.

-Mike Fosse
Vice President of Energy & Member Services