by Cori Hilsgen
St. Joseph just became a little more green – energy-wise.
A new solar-power project, with its 28,000 solar panels, is located on the north and south side of Interstate 94, north of St. Joseph. It is now producing electricity.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour took place Oct. 12.
The solar panels are spread across 60 acres and will produce enough energy to power about 1,200 average Minnesota homes.
Corey Orehek, IPS Solar marketing director, said IPS developed the St. Cloud Area Solar Garden and hired Egan Co. to construct the project. It was co-developed by Maryland-based New Energy Equity and will be owned long-term by east-coast utility Washington Gas Energy Systems.
Primary subscribers to the local solar garden include the St. Cloud, Annandale and Paynesville school districts, as well as manufacturer Louis Industries.
Louis Industries had previously installed 500 kilowatts of panels on its roof in 2015 and decided to expand with community solar.
“Over the course of 25 years, subscribers to this solar garden should see total savings in excess of $8 million,” said Eric Pasi, IPS vice president of business development. “We’re making a real difference both economically and environmentally.”
He said solar energy has benefits that extend beyond clean, cost-efficient energy.
“IPS Solar has been doing a lot of work with school districts and helping educators incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning into their curriculum,” he said. “These systems create data based on power performance, solar irradiance and the weather. Students can chart that data, conduct experiments and learn about the technology.”
The company hosted its second educator workshop in September in Red Wing, where the school district is leasing 40 acres for a large solar garden.
“We’re excited to help educators with solar-energy coursework,” Pasi said.
Construction on the solar garden, located at 11400 CR 51, St. Joseph began in June. The land is leased from IMS Properties LLC and Walz Properties LLC.
Joe Walz, president of IMS Properties and part owner of Walz Properties, said the land had been passed down through Walz families for generations but was divided when Interstate 94 was built.
“Walz Properties LLC and IMS Properties LLC feel this is a great opportunity to provide green energy for the community,” he said. “This is a great marketing tool to help promote the City of St. Joseph development and the colleges in the area.”
IMS Properties LLC also sold land on which a new Milk and Honey Ciders facility was built at 11738 CR 51 by St. Joseph.
The solar garden is one of many projects being brought online by the IPS Solar project team during the next 12 months throughout the state.
For additional information, visit the ips-solar.com website.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.