By - Jim Vess

North Dakota commission approves the state’s first commercial solar installation

Energize Weekly, March 6, 2019

The North Dakota Public Service Commission gave a green light to the state’s first commercial solar installation—a $250 million project—on Feb. 26. It is slated to begin operation in 2020.

The commission, on a 2-1 vote, approved the plan by Edina, Minn.-based Geronimo Energy to construct the 200-megawatt (MW) facility on a 1,662-acre site in Harmony Township, 15 miles west of Fargo.

In a filing to the commission, Geronimo said that the facility will be able to generate enough electricity to serve 41,000 homes and avoid 227,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Geronimo said it is seeking to sell the electricity and the renewable energy credits (RECs) the project will receive either as a bundle or separately to utilities and commercial customers.

There had been concerns that the installation would conflict with state farmland preservation rules. The owners of the land are seven farmers, and the project has local support.

“With deep roots in agriculture, Geronimo prides itself on developing wind farms that are farmer-friendly, community-driven, and beneficial for rural communities,” Geronimo said in a filing to the commission.

“The Project will also create new local job opportunities for various trade professions that live and work in the area and it is typical to advertise locally to fill required construction positions,” the filing said.

Geronimo estimates that the project will generate $24 million in direct economic impacts over its 20-year life, including $5.7 million in school district revenue and $2 million to the county.

“For me, it is a private property rights issue,” Brian Kroshus, one of two commission members who approved the project, told the Grand Forks Herald.

Geronimo has constructed 14 wind and solar facilities and has six more under construction in Minnesota, South Dakota and Illinois, according to the company’s website.

Major utilities and merchant power companies, including Xcel Energy, NRG Energy, Sempra and Exelon Corp., either own or purchase power from Geronimo-built wind and solar projects.

“Over 1,800 MW of wind and solar projects developed by Geronimo are either under construction or operational,” the company said in a filing.

North Dakota is ranked last in the nation for solar power by the Solar Energy Industries Association, with less than 1 MW of installed solar.

In 2017, about 66 percent of North Dakota’s net electricity generation came from coal, a little more than 25 percent came from wind generation and about 5 percent came from conventional hydroelectric power, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

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