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Solar More Cost Effective Than Natural Gas, Report Says

Solar More Cost Effective Than Natural Gas, Report Says Click to Enlarge Photo: Associated Press

Jul 17, 2017 at 4:38 am

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/KNSI) - A report from a Minnesota university shows adding solar energy storage may be a cost-effective way to help meet the state's electricity demand.

The University of Minnesota's Energy Transition Lab presented its report to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this month.

The commission recommended the state pursue energy storage pilot projects.

Lab director Ellen Anderson says building more solar arrays with batteries is more cost effective than building a conventional plant.

Solar power has become more popular in the St. Cloud area recently.

St. John's University in Collegeville started a solar farm in 2009.

In October of 2015, the St. Cloud City Council approved rezoning a 37-acre tract of land northeast of the wastewater treatment plant on 60th Street South for a 5-megawatt solar garden.

In July 2016, the city decided to put solar panels on the water treatment plant on Fifth Avenue North, near Hester Park, the police station and two fire stations.

The ground was broken on a 3-megawatt solar garden in Cold Spring in September of 2016.

But not all projects get the go ahead. In January, after some public opposition, the city voted against rezoning 10-acres of Assumption Cemetery near Roosevelt Road for a 1-megawatt solar garden which would have consisted of 3,600 solar panels.

Right now, natural gas power plants are typically used during peak demand because they can be ramped up and down quickly.

Anderson says new natural gas plants generating about 1,800 megawatts are planned for the state by 2028 to help meet the peak demand.

In February, lawmakers passed a bill to allow the Sherco power plant in Becker to transition from coal to natural gas.

The report also found the state could better utilize wind energy resources.

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