MANKATO — By as early as this fall, a nearly five-acre plot of land atop Thompson Ravine and visible from Highway 14 will be home to a large solar farm being constructed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
State regulators recently approved a $900,000 grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund for the $1.8 million project.
"It's very exciting for us," said Bill Ward, facilities administrator at Good Counsel.
The array will be at the intersection of Highway 14 and Victory Drive North, just west of the Kwik Trip at Victory and Raintree Road. It will be on Good Counsel's land, east of the main campus.
At nearly 1 megawatt (907 kilowatts), the project will power about 115 homes. Compared to existing solar farms in the state, it would be among the biggest with the largest being a 2-megawatt array near Slayton. But several significantly larger solar projects are slated for construction, including several proposed by Geronimo Energy that would include a 5.5-megawatt project near Eagle Lake.
Ward said the rest of the funding for the project is coming from a group of investors put together by Hopkins-based Best Power International, which will oversee construction and management of the solar farm. Best Power will take advantage of solar tax credits and will lease the power generated from the array to Xcel Energy. Best Power has done several similar projects in Minnesota.
After seven or eight years, SSND will take ownership of the array and will continue to use Best Power as a management firm and will continue to lease the electricity to Xcel, with SSND getting the lease payments.
"The power won't be going to the SSND grid at this point," Ward said, but said that could change in the future.
Ward said the Good Counsel sisters hope the solar farm will be a destination for educational opportunities for area school children and college students.