According to a report from the Grand Forks Herald newspaper, the $2.2 million project is one of the largest in the state and could generate enough electricity to power over 160 homes while several similar arrays are also expected to go live in coming months.
Located in a reclaimed gravel pit near the casino on the federally-recognized Fond Du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation in Carlton County, the one-megawatt solar array features 3,230 panels arranged in ten rows and is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 2.6 million pounds per year when compared with a similarly-sized coal-generating facility.
“The band is working on reducing its carbon footprint and carrying out its environmental stewardship responsibilities,” read a statement from the Fond Du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The band, which also operates the Fond-Du-Luth Casino in nearby Duluth declared that it had already met its Kyoto Protocol carbon reduction goals four years ahead of target and has moreover added energy-efficient light-emitting diode lighting solutions to many of its buildings. It explained that its reservation additionally features smaller solar arrays for its Ojibwe School powwow grounds and Resource Management Division building as it works to cut pollutants including carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas most scientists agree is largely behind global climate change.
The completion of the array follows a no-fault federal court settlement agreed in July of 2014 that saw Minnesota Power agree to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty to the Fond Du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa over alleged pollution-control violations. The Duluth-based utilities provider also agreed to spend $4.2 million on conservation and clean energy projects including the new solar farm.
Minnesota Power additionally plans to go live with a ten-megawatt solar farm at Camp Ripley in central Minnesota in the autumn and recently asked contractors to submit proposals for projects up to 300-megawatts for its service area.
“[The Fond Du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa is] a valued customer and Minnesota Power and the Fond Du Lac Band [Of Lake Superior Chippewa ] have a long history of working together on renewable energy resources in our region,” Amy Rutledge from Minnesota Power told the newspaper. “We have worked together on the licensing of our St Louis River hydro facilities. We provided support for the installation of a smaller solar system on the Fond Du Lac [Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa] Resource Management Building and now Minnesota Power is pleased to have provided technical support and solutions for this larger one-megawatt solar facility.”