Minnesota is now home to the largest solar energy facility in the Midwest.
The North Star Solar Project spans 1,000 acres near North Branch and is made up more than 440,000 solar panels. Officials say it will provide enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes.
The project was proposed after a Minnesota statute required public utilities to produce at least 1.5 percent of retail electricity from solar energy by 2020. In the long term, Xcel Energy plans to be 63 percent carbon-free by 2030.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, partners in the project celebrated the end of the construction that began in April.
Chris Clark, the president of Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest division, says renewable energy is the nation’s future.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “This is the largest solar installation that we’ve interconnected to our system at over 100 megawatts. This is really part of our energy future.”
The North Star Solar Project also had a great economic impact for the local economy.
The project employed more than 300 workers throughout construction, and it’s estimated to generate $350,000 a year in property and production tax revenues for Chisago County.
The energy from North Star will also help power the State Capitol, along with wind energy from another nearby plant. While construction is done, the project won’t start harvesting the sun’s energy for a few months.