October 27, 2016 at 2:55 p.m.

Chisago County solar array complex part of much larger picture

Chisago County solar array complex part of much larger picture
Chisago County solar array complex part of much larger picture

The completion of construction for the North Star solar array-- the biggest single solar facility site in the midwest-- was celebrated October 19.  

If you took the bus tour offered you would have crossed over Lent Township, a rural corner of North Branch and Sunrise  Township. The 1,000 acre energy generation site will come in handy as part of a solar industry that is being expected to feed Army, Navy and Air Force installations three gigawatts by 2025,  enough to power 750,000 homes.  North Star can provide the energy to power 23,000 homes, or all of the taxpaying parcels in Chisago County, it was explained at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Xcel Energy’s plan is to deliver one-third of its customers’ energy from renewables, by the year 2030.  Bryan Martin, managing director and head of USA private equity at D.E. Shaw Group said in a statement  that,  “Our investment in solar projects delivers benefits to the environment and strong returns for our shareholders.”  He added, “We appreciate the hard work of our partners Xcel Energy, Community Energy and Swinerton.”

North Star  got approval from the MN Public Utilities Commission in April 2016 following months of environmental and historical review and regulatory agency public hearings.  

The build-out took six months, employed 350 workers and had a payroll of $5 million, according to Swinerton Renewable Energy, a division of Swinerton Builders.

The site will be owned and managed by D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments.

Several employees will be assigned full-time to North Star, ranging from an electrician to a site manager and maintenance workers.

At the ceremony last week, Community Energy Solar representative Chase Whitney applauded the landowners who made this a reality, especially Phil and Dennis Anderson, the first to lease land and who fully understood the potential value of this solar facility.  

Whitney said,  “Without them on-board this would not have happened.”  From that point forward, several additional property owners were signed up.

He also thanked many governing entities that were cooperative and worked well on refining the project.

Chisago County Board Chair Mike Robinson said, “Today is a big deal, we don’t have too many days like this in the county.”

He cited the production tax revenues expected (based on energy capacity) and noted Chisago County is at the lead of renewables, with multiple large and small solar array sites located here.


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