Minnesota Power plans to triple its solar capacity with three new arrays around northern Minnesota.
The $40 million investment announced Wednesday will add 20 megawatts of solar power from projects in Hoyt Lakes, Brainerd and Duluth. Together it will be enough electricity to power more than 4,000 homes.
The announcement came on a deadline set by state regulators to “evaluate projects they could speed up as a way to kick-start local economies and put people back to work,” the company said. The project was originally scheduled for 2025.
“Moving up the timetable of planned solar projects will boost the tax base of local economies, add solar panels from regional manufacturers when possible, and support local construction jobs,” CEO Bethany Owen said in a statement.
The arrays are planned at the Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes; the Sylvan Hydro Station near Brainerd; and an unidentified site in Duluth.
The sizes of each array and other details “will be determined later this summer or early fall when we file for approval of the specific projects,” said Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge. “In that we will include a cost analysis breakdown regarding rates.”
Most of the construction on the three projects will take place in 2021, by which time Minnesota Power expects to get half of its electricity from renewable sources.
The Duluth-based utility recently brought its new Great Northern Transmission Line online, which delivers Canadian hydropower to the grid.
Minnesota Power opened its 10-megawatt solar array at Camp Ripley near Little Falls in 2017 and has two smaller arrays in Duluth and Wrenshall.
A recent rate case settlement dictates that the company can’t begin asking for another rate increase — should one be needed to cover the solar investment — until March 2021.