Dakota Electric Association members are now receiving more electricity from the sun through a new 2-megawatt solar facility built specifically for the cooperative's members.

Dakota Electric's board of directors, along with Great River Energy and ENGIE personnel, held a dedication July 19 at the joint solar facility in Hampton Township. Rep. Pat Garofalo, Sen. Rich Draheim and Public Utilities Commissioner John Tuma attended the event along with representatives from Conservation Minnesota, CURE, and Center for Energy and Environment.

The 15-acre solar site is expected to have a 25-year life and will produce enough electricity to power about 300 average homes. The 7,776 panels, which track the sun as it moves through the sky, will produce more than 3 million kilowatt-hours of power annually.

ENGIE built and owns the solar facility on behalf of Great River Energy. Through a power purchase contract with Great River Energy, Dakota Electric purchases all the solar output for delivery to its member-owners.

"We are pleased to provide this renewable energy resource to our members," Dakota Electric's CEO Greg Miller said. "This project will add to our existing wholesale renewable portfolio that includes wind, solar and hydro."

An added benefit is that the grounds at the solar site are planted with pollinator-friendly plants, so once mature, they will provide habitat that is helpful to bees and other pollinators.

"As Dakota Electric's power supplier, Great River Energy is honored to facilitate this solar energy supply, by partnering with ENGIE to develop, build and operate the facility over the next 25 years," said Mark Rathbun, manager, renewable resources, at Great River Energy. "Over this time, Dakota Electric members will see economic and environmental benefits from this partnership."

"Dakota Electric seeks to use our members' money wisely while we strive to be good stewards of the environment," said Dakota Electric Board Chair Jerry Pittman, as he welcomed guests. "I'm happy to report this project does this well and the board was happy to approve this project."

After a ribbon-cutting event, attendees received a tour of the solar site and learned about the process of producing electricity from the sun. They also learned how the panels rotate to track the sun's movements to maximize the energy produced.

A customer-owned, non-profit utility since 1937, Dakota Electric Association provides electricity to more than 108,000 members throughout Dakota County and portions of Goodhue, Rice and Scott counties.