Facility will provide about 10% of plant's annual energy needs
Construction of a solar facility begins June 9 on a site just west of the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee. Once the facility is up and running, thousands of solar panels will help power the plant and meet about 10 percent of the plant’s annual energy needs.
The Metropolitan Council is leasing the land and allowing the contractor, Oak Leaf Energy Partners of Colorado, to use up to 10 acres for the solar facility. The Council will purchase the energy produced at a lower price than the cost of electricity.
Benefits are environmental, economic and social
Jason Willett, Finance and Energy Director for the Council’s Environmental Services Division, says there are many good reasons to advance the use of solar energy, including energy savings that can be passed on to people who pay the cost of wastewater treatment, and benefits to the environment.
“Our mission is to protect public health and the environment,” said Willett. “Solar energy is all that and more.” Willett puts the benefits of solar energy into three primary categories—environmental, economic and social:
Reduce carbon and other air emissions that impact health
Conserve fossil fuels
Jobs and tax base creation
Postpone need for electric utility expansion
Avoid solid waste that results from conventional energy generation
Enhance Minnesota expertise in alternative energy application and benefits
Bolster state and national energy independence
Promote energy security
Fall 2015 completion expected
Construction at the site will continue through the summer, with completion this fall. It will be the largest solar facility at a wastewater treatment plant in the state, and built with the help of $2 million in Xcel Energy renewable development grant funds.
The Blue Lake Plant is the second largest of the eight treatment plants in the Twin Cities region and the third largest plant in the state. It treats an average of 26 million gallons of wastewater a day from nearly 300,000 residents in 29 communities.