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Camp Ripley Takes Aim at Global Warming

Our military used to boast about its fire power. These days the brass brags about its solar power. The Minnesota National Guard has just unveiled the latest weapon in the war on global warming. It’s a 60 acre solar panel farm at Camp Ripley in north central Minnesota. Row upon row of 120,000 solar panels standing in precise military formation, the biggest solar installation at any National Guard base in the country. Solar Panels Ground Level

But as turns out to be the case more often than not in Minnesota, sunshine proved to be elusive for the occasion.

There was more wind than sun at this National Guard base near Brainerd on Thursday morning, but the state’s newest solar farm was still managing to turn out more than 6 megawatts of power during its official dedication.

“We do mean to be responsive to a changing environment, and we are,” said Allete CEO Al Hodnik in front of the 60-acre array of solar panels his company, Minnesota Power, built and now operates. “We take the backseat to no one in innovation.”

The project’s astonishing $25 million price tag has led to the utility taking fire from state regulators for overpaying for solar panels and long-term lease with the National Guard. The collateral damage includes the northern Minnesota utility’s residential ratepayers, whose bills will rise as a result of the costly solar farm.

But rising rates didn’t stop politicians and other participants from patting themselves on the back anyway.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith praised Minnesota Power for its growing portfolio of renewable projects, including wind farms in North Dakota.

“With four megastorms in the past seven years in Minnesota, we don’t need any more reminders of the impact of a changing climate on our state,” Smith said. “Projects like you see behind us will be helpful to mitigate some of that damage.”

In reality, the environment also suffers collateral damage with solar energy dependent on such vast quantities of land.  After all, the Camp Ripley solar farm chews up more than 60 acres of land to generate enough electricity to power about 1,700 homes, as long as the sun shines. That works out to about 70 solar panels on the ground for every home, as long as the sun shines.

But our men and women in uniform can be confident the base’s solar farm has their back in case of an electrical outage–as long as the sun shines.

Camp Ripley can draw from the solar farm in times of emergency, and it goes a long way to make the base a “net-zero” electricity user.

“Camp Ripley is now capable of producing as much energy as it consumes,” said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. “We can make a better Minnesota and a better world by joining the worldwide initiative to address the serious challenge of climate change.”

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