Little Falls, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Duluth–based Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard signed an agreement on Wednesday to construct the largest solar energy installation on military property in the state.
"This solar array will start the road to making Camp Ripley net zero in energy," said Major General, Rick Nash who is with the Minnesota National Guard.
A joint undertaking between Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard will allow solar panels to cover nearly 100 acres of Camp Ripley. During non–emergency operations the solar electricity would flow to Minnesota Power customers.
The solar panel installation will be the largest at any National Guard base and at 10 Megawatts; it's enough to power up to 350 Minnesota homes.
"This signing today, marks a milestone along our path to making this vision a reality," said Nash.
That vision is to reduce energy usage at the base by 30 percent and solar panels aren't the only way it will be achieved.
"Minnesota Power has recommended an additional 50 action items to help reduce and conserve energy here at the camp," said Al Hodnick, CEO of Allete.
The project is a big step for both entities and was given a blessing by Minnesota representatives.
"To see private public joint ventures like this coming together, just gives you wonderfully good hope for the future," said Rep. Rick Nolan.
"They create jobs, they spur innovation, and they benefit the environment, but that's not all, clean energy is a national security issue," said Sen. Al Franken.
It's a national security issue because the Department of Defense uses more energy than any other entity in the world. The new installations will not only provide cleaner energy, but enhance security for Camp Ripley by providing back up power in the event of a power failure.
"Key military installations like Camp Ripley need secure uninterruptible power as well," said Hodnick.
The memorandum of understanding also outlined reciprocating engines to be installed at Camp Ripley that will be fueled by diesel or natural gas to be used during high energy demand or for emergency backup.
The project is expected to cost about $25 million and should be completed by either late 2015 or early 2016.