Stop, collaborate, and make clean power: Minnesota town works with co-op on major solar project

A collaborative effort that will see a small town in Minnesota supply two thirds of its power from solar panels is a great example of the types of projects New Brunswick groups and organizations could explore under the province’s forthcoming renewable energy regulations.

The town of Rockford, Minnesota is making some big changes to where its power comes from. They have teamed up with the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association to create a solar project within the city which they called “Bantam.” The project placed 60 solar panels on a city owned shopping mall and another 270 on property next to a water tower. Over the next 25 years, the city of 4,300 people will offset 67 percent of its power with these panels, and save 7 percent annually over what it would have paid for power under a conventional contract.

Wright-Hennepin said partnering with the city for this project is financially low-risk and opens up the opportunity for schools, businesses and other commercial customers to join in the future. They hope this project will bring more renewables into the mainstream, along with other community projects.

The solar project will help improve the city’s green energy profile. The city is also looking into a project involving capturing rainwater to reuse for irrigation.

In September, the N.B. government released draft regulations to allow small-scale renewable energy generation projects in the province. The regulation is aimed at making sure New Brunswick gets at least 40 percent of its energy from clean renewable sources by the year 2020. It sets out criteria for cooperatives, First Nations, non profit groups and local communities to lead the change to reduce carbon pollution by installing wind, solar and tidal technologies.

The province hopes the program — “Locally-owned Renewable Energy Projects that are Small Scale (LORESS)” — will encourage the creation of new cooperatives in renewable energy generation and serve the province’s demand for energy. The town of Rockford is an excellent example of what can be implemented right here in our province!

Part of our Renewable Solutions NB Project