The 150 megawatt Aurora Solar Park, a chain of 16 small-scale solar farms strategically placed throughout Minnesota, are the latest in a string of new installations making the state an explosive solar market to watch in 2017. The Aurora Solar Park is the largest solar project in the state and likely the region and is expected to generate 210 million kilowatt-hours annually, powering over 17,000 homes in the state.
Minnestoa has added 203 megawatts of solar capacity in the first quarter alone, according to the Minnesota Commerce Department. In all, the state could see more than 800 megawatts of solar come online by the end of 2017. That's a huge contrast to the lone megawatt of solar it had in 2009. Like a hockey stick solar has grown in the state, it had 37 megawatts of solar in 2015, but by the end of 2016 it skyrocketed to 447 megawatts of installed solar.
The new, $290 million solar park is Minnesota’s most ambitious utility-scale project to date. Each of the 16 solar farms are close to the communities they serve, which facilitates shorter transmission lines, increased grid reliability and helps reduce electricity costs. All 16 locations of the Aurora project are owned by Enel Green Power’s subsidiary Aurora Distributed Solar, which will sell electricity generated at the solar farms to Xcel Energy under a long-term power-purchase agreement.
“This model, which we have implemented through the Aurora solar plant, consists of the installation of multiple small-scale solar sites to supply green energy to communities across the state, and furthers our ‘open power’ approach to open energy access to more people, new technologies and new uses. The innovative design of Aurora highlights how renewables can provide both sustainable, reliable energy to communities while delivering significant environmental benefits and economic value,” said Rafael Gonzalez, head of Enel Green Power.
“The completion of Aurora is another major milestone in our continued strong growth in the US. We are proud to be a part of growing Minnesota’s energy economy through maximizing the utility-scale distributed solar model,” said Gonzalez.
The rapid expansion of solar throughout the state in the last couple of years has primarily come from utility-scale and community-solar projects. For instance, the 100 megawatt North Star Solar Project in Chisago County, MN, the second largest solar project in the state, came online in late 2016. The project is selling to Xcel energy under a 25-year power-purchase agreement and is part of the utility’s efforts to double its renewable energy capacity as it strives to become 63 percent carbon neutral by 2030.Tweet