September 08, 2020
Otter Tail Power Company plans to build a nearly 50-megawatt (MW) solar farm on land around the soon-to-be-retired Hoot Lake Plant in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Hoot Lake Solar will include around 170,000 solar panels, generating enough energy to power approximately 10,000 homes every year.
Construction may start as early as 2021. “We have an exciting window of opportunity to add a renewable resource and affordably interconnect the electricity from that resource to the energy grid,” said Otter Tail Power Company President Tim Rogelstad. “Solar generation has advantages that make it the right energy resource for us at this time and at this location. Over the past few years, the costs of solar energy have significantly decreased and efficiency has increased. Using the area around Hoot Lake Plant allows us to be resourceful with our property in Fergus Falls and to wisely use existing transmission infrastructure. I’m proud of our engineers and our project leads for developing a solid plan that makes sense for our customers.”
Planning solar energy
The existing Hoot Lake substation will connect electricity produced by the solar farm to customers across Otter Tail Power Company’s service area. “Not only are we adding another renewable resource for our customers, we’re doing it during a time when we can keep the price they pay for electricity lower than they’d find almost anywhere else,” said Rogelstad.
Before construction can begin for Hoot Lake Solar, Otter Tail Power Company will seek required approvals from state regulatory agencies and local government, and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc., will need to authorize interconnection to the transmission system. “We’re excited to work with the City of Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County to complete this important project,” said Rogelstad. “Both have been supportive partners for us throughout our operations of the existing Hoot Lake Plant—and our entire history—and we look forward to maintaining and growing those partnerships.”
Powering the future
Otter Tail Power Company projects that with the completion of Hoot Lake Solar, up to 35% of its energy will come from renewables, while ensuring electric service continues to be safe, reliable, and economical. The company also recently completed two nearly 40-kilowatt solar projects: Blue Jay Solar in Jamestown, North Dakota, and Blue Heron Solar near Ottertail, Minnesota.
Construction continues at the Merricourt Wind Energy Center, a 150-MW wind generation facility in southeast North Dakota—the first complete wind turbine stands tall as of July 28—and at Astoria Station, a 245-MW simple-cycle natural gas combustion turbine in east central South Dakota, where the company recently energized the transmission substation. Astoria Station will have flexible operating options, providing energy during periods of high demand, with low emissions. Both projects are scheduled for completion before the end of this year.
Photo caption: Workers install solar panels last fall at Blue Heron Solar near Ottertail, Minnesota. The solar farm began producing electricity in August 2020.