According to Dragonfly and SolarWorld, the project is the nation’s first and largest to be developed under a model of joint ownership among utility cooperatives. What's more, it exemplifies how cooperatives can maximize their clean-power investment.
The solar array will be owned and managed by Minnesota-Three, an entity jointly owned by Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services of Albert Lea, Minn., People’s Energy Cooperative of Oronoco, Minn., and Tri-County Cooperative of Rushford, Minn. – all utility cooperatives whose member-owners have joined forces to curb energy costs. Dairyland Power of La Crosse, Wis., the cooperative power wholesaler for the region, has signed an agreement to purchase the solar array’s renewable-energy output.
“Utility cooperatives are leading the way in making clean power an integral part of their energy portfolios,” said Mukesh Dulani, U.S. president of SolarWorld.
The project was funded in part by one of the largest solar photovoltaic grants awarded in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps small businesses, farmers and ranchers in rural communities to purchase and install renewable-energy equipment. Dragonfly Solar prepared the project’s successful REAP application.
Dairyland Power selected Dragonfly Solar, a SolarWorld Platinum Installer, from a pool of more than 60 applicants to design, procure and construct the project. The installation will feature more than 1,800 of SolarWorld’s high-performance, American-made solar panels manufactured at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Oregon. Construction of the solar facility is scheduled to begin this spring in Oronoco, Minn. Upon completion, the array will be interconnected to People’s Energy Cooperative’s power delivery system.