Maple Grove turbine to get new solar neighbors

People driving through Maple Grove will soon be noticing some changes near the already iconic Great River Energy wind turbine on Elm Creek Boulevard. 

GRE will be adding more energy efficiency to its landscaping this spring.

One of the first projects GRE will be doing will be to construct a 250 kW solar array in the  land in front of the building. Back when the GRE building was built in 2007-08, mounds were created in front to plant native prairie grasses.

“We will now be converting these areas to the installation area of the solar panels,” said Randy Fordice, Project Communications Specialist with Great River Energy.

He said there will be passive solar arrays, which are fixed into one position.

“These panels will be south facing, because there are no tall buildings across the street to block the sun,” he added.

The GRE building in Maple Grove is also a LEED served building. According to Fordice it made sense to place these panels by this building. He added GRE is pursuing these panels because of the solar energy aspect. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The Maple Grove GRE building is one of the most energy-efficient and sustainable buildings in the state. The building features fluorsecent and LED lighting throughout, as well as rooftop solar panels, a wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling system, multiple atria to harvest maximum daylight and rainwater is captured to use to flush toilets and for irrigation.

“We are an electric cooperative member and we are hearing from members about what solar energy means for them,” he said. “This will be a large research development project. GRE will be testing panels and installations and comparing different types of panels. We will keep data on the project for a few years.”

Fordice added the project would allow GRE to help determine how solar energy installations can be integrated into cooperative systems. The project will begin in mid-March depending on the weather and be completed in mid-May.

The panels will be 5 to 6 feet off the ground surrounded by a fence. These panels will look like triangles from the side and from the front they will look like angled solar panels.

The second project GRE is working on will be to work with the 28 member co-ops in the state to identify where to place 20 kW projects. Site identification, material procurement and design will take place throughout early 2014, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-2014. All facilities are expected to be in service by mid-2015.

“Our industry continues to evolve,” said Rick Lancaster, Vice President of Generation at Great River Energy. “As an organization, we need to understand how these technologies may affect our business now and in the future, as well as research the impacts to our distribution system and evaluate the overall costs to integrate both large- and small scale- solar installations.”