Moorhead builds solar energy project

Photo courtesy US DOE

Moorhead will build a solar energy pilot project this summer to generate electricity for the city.

Moorhead Public Service, the city's public utility, will install three solar panel arrays that track the sun through the day. The panels will generate up to 10 kilowatts of electricity a day. City officials say that's enough electricity to power several average homes.

Moorhead Public Service has two wind turbines which generate electricity for the city. The first went on line in 1999.

"Moorhead was a leader when it began its wind turbine project over ten years ago and now Moorhead is a leader, again, in promoting renewable energy, " MPS General Manager Bill Schwandt said.

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The new solar panels will cost about $100,000. A grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will pay about 40 percent of the project cost according to city officials.

City officials hope the pilot project will stimulate local businesses and homeowners to consider solar energy applications.

MPS' Energy Services Manager Dennis Eisenbraun thinks the project will also help determine the viability of solar technology in Moorhead's weather extremes.

Map courtesy NREL

It will be interesting to see how effectively solar panels generate electricity in Moorhead. As this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows, Minnesota isn't exactly a hot spot for solar energy potential.

Data from the National Climatic Data Center says over a year, it's sunny 57 percent of the time in Moorhead.

Moorhead expects to have the solar energy project online and generating electricity by the end of September.