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40-acre solar field could power 1,000-plus homes

A new solar power construction project will be started southeast of Cottage Grove this year.

Geronimo Energy, an Edina-based wind and solar energy developer, has been working with Xcel Energy on the Aurora Solar Project for more than two years. The Aurora Solar Project will ultimately add about 25 new solar power sites in 16 Minnesota counties in 2015 and 2016. Once complete, sites will have a total operational capacity of 100 megawatts (MW).

This month, a Geronimo Energy representative met with Denmark Township residents to discuss the Hastings project.

According to information released by Geronimo Energy, the Hastings site is expected to be an up to 5 MW facility of solar arrays – photovoltaic modules – covering 40 acres. At capacity, the site could power an estimated 1,008 houses.

The site is located in Denmark Township, northeast of Highway 10 and Norell Road South. Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2015 and finish in 2016.

The facility, as proposed, will feature solar arrays with a tracking system to follow the sun throughout the day. There will also be power inverters, converting the DC power produced by the arrays into AC power. Power generated by the arrays will be connected to the local utility grid.

The arrays would be low to the ground, would produce no odor or noticeable sound. The facility will have vegetative ground cover and will be professionally managed.

One of the main benefits of adding solar power is environmental. Geronimo Energy estimates the Hastings facility will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,673 metric tons each year.

The project is part of Xcel Energy’s plans to double the amount of electricity it gets from wind and solar in the Upper Midwest. Xcel is under a state mandate to get 1.5 percent of its power from solar by 2020. To achieve that, Xcel must acquire about 300 MW of solar energy. The Aurora Solar Project takes care of about one-third of that. Xcel and Geronimo Energy have a power purchase agreement in place, making the solar power generated available for Xcel to distribute.