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Solar gardens coming soon to Fargo and Moorhead

MOORHEAD--Utility leaders in Fargo and Moorhead are finalizing plans to offer solar garden programs for residents.


MOORHEAD-Utility leaders in Fargo and Moorhead are finalizing plans to offer solar garden programs for residents.

Solar gardens are typically funded by customers who buy licenses for power output. The utility then installs panels and feeds the power they produce into an overall grid, with license holders being credited for the power their panel produces.

Dennis Eisenbraun, energy services manager for Moorhead Public Service, said the city's Capture the Sun Community Solar Garden is expected to be built in July in north Moorhead on 28th Street.

Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams said the solar garden there will be built near the ground storage reservoir on 52nd Street South. Cass County Electric is still determining a timeline for when its 252 nonrotating-panel garden will go up in south Fargo, but it will likely be built in the next year, officials said.

"It's a good way to do it where you have open spaces and the city gets a little bit of cash or energy, and the residents or the members of those utilities get a chance to get involved in solar power," Williams said.


The Fargo garden is part of the "eFargo" environmental initiative to encourage residents to conserve energy.

Moorhead's solar garden will have 66 nonrotating panels and provide 20 kilowatts of electricity to the grid. Cass County Electric's solar garden will generate about 100 kilowatts of power to its grid, which covers about 20 percent of the city.

Eisenbraun said Moorhead customers will pay $480 for the power output of one panel.

The system in Fargo, while similar to Moorhead's, will is expected to be more expensive, said Marshal Albright, Cass County Electric's vice president of energy and member services. He wasn't sure by how much.

The idea behind the solar gardens is to keep the cost down for installing the arrays. MPS and Cass County Electric officials say expansion is possible if there is enough interest.

"We're trying to make this as self-funded as possible," Eisenbraun said.

He said the Moorhead site has the capacity for more than 650 panels, but the number of panels depends on demand.

MPS is hosting an informational meeting from 7 to 7:45 tonight at Moorhead City Hall to try to attract 15 more panel licensees. The utility has licensed 51 panels. Licenses will be available.


Albright said an announcement with more details about the Fargo garden will come in late May or June.

Albright said Cass County Electric will need about a 70 percent commitment from customers in order to move forward with construction. The commitment is needed in order to pay for most of the installation costs up front. When an announcement is made, people can reserve a panel and eventually purchase a license, Albright said.

Albright and Eisenbraun stressed that the gardens are not meant to power someone's entire house; each panel can only power about five light bulbs. Eisenbraun said the point of the gardens is to allow people who don't have the ability to have solar panels at their home, to help feed solar energy into the grid.

It would take about 25 to 30 panels to power an entire home, he said.

Xcel Energy spokesperson Mark Nisbet said his company, which serves areas of Fargo not covered by Cass County Electric, is exploring its options for solar gardens.

He said one of the company's presidents, Chris Clark, visited the city and was pleased Fargo officials support the idea of solar gardens.

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