Minnesota Power launches new Sylvan solar project

Published on June 27, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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Minnesota Power launched its new Sylvan Solar Project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.

It is one of three solar projects developed by Minnesota Power, a division of Allete, that were approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The Sylvan Solar Project in Sylvan, Minn., is built on 80 acres and will generate 15.2 megawatts of power. The company also constructed a 5.6-megawatt solar array near the company’s Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes and a 1.6-megawatt facility along Jean Duluth Road in Duluth.

All three projects were built using more than 60,000 solar panels sourced from Heliene, which has a manufacturing facility in Mountain Iron, Minn.

The Sylvan project employed 33 local, union construction workers. It also featured a unique partnership with White Earth Tribal and Community College and the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance to provide White Earth students with hands-on learning as part of a solar training certificate program to help build the workforce of the future.

“I’m so proud of the Minnesota Power team behind these solar projects as we dedicate the last and largest of the three today,” said Minnesota Power Chief Operating Officer Josh Skelton said at the ceremony. “From conception through procurement, construction and completion, you have done exactly what we set out to do—support the regional economy and generate more local renewable energy. This investment in clean energy supports local jobs, local education, local manufacturing and local communities as we strive to create a just and equitable transition to a carbon-free future with opportunities for all.”

Energy from the site feeds Minnesota Power’s overall system. Its output is expected to be about 29,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year, or enough energy to power about 3,400 homes.

“COVID was a challenging time for utilities. We did not have the answer, but we knew we needed to do something to keep our utilities working and moving toward our energy goals,” Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Vice Chair Joseph Sullivan said. “Minnesota Power responded to the commission and the state of Minnesota when we needed them. This is Minnesota Power investing in its communities and that’s what’s special about it.”

Under its EnergyForward strategy, Minnesota Power’s energy portfolio now has approximately 30 megawatts of solar energy.

“Today is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the clean-energy transition in action,” Minnesota Power Vice President of Strategy and Planning Julie Pierce said. “The local investments benefit the communities surrounding the projects, and the carbon-free electricity will be felt far and wide for all of our customers. This project shows that through thoughtful planning and collaboration, and by working together, we can help build a carbon-free future right here in northern Minnesota.”

For all three projects combined, contracts with women-owned businesses totaled nearly $80,000; contracts with veteran-owned businesses totaled nearly $9,000; and contracts with companies that employ people with disabilities totaled more than $75,000. Contracts with local suppliers and contractors for the three projects totaled $36 million.

Minnesota Power provides electric service to 150,000 customers in14 municipalities in Minnesota.