by General Manager Steve Stroshane
This fall, we celebrate the fourth anniversary of SunTuria Solar! We've learned a lot since it was dedicated behind our co-op office in Centuria on November 3, 2017.
The 1.25-MW array generates about 2.2 million kWh of electricity annually, enough to power about 200 homes. The annual production varies depending on how cloudy or snowy a year is. It is also affected by events that require maintenance, such as a lightning strike that requires a fuse to be replaced. Overall, the array is operating as expected.
The 10-acre solar array has 4,840 panels that operate on a tracking system, which follows the path of the sun to increase energy production–about 14% more electricity than fixed panels. The tracking system also has some self-protection programming that puts the array in what is called stow condition. In the case of high winds, the panels will lean into the wind to prevent the panels from being torn from their mounts. If deep snow is detected, the panels will not move to prevent them from getting caught on a snow drift.
SunTuria Solar was built and is owned by ENGIE America (formerly SoCore Energy) on land leased from the electric co-op. Polk-Burnett and our power provider, Dairyland Power Cooperative, purchase the energy output.
The site behind Polk-Burnett in Centuria was ideal for solar construction, but it posed some electrical challenges. Due to the high output of the array, we needed to upgrade a mile of power line near the office. The power from SunTuria flows into PolkBurnett's distribution system and the Sand Lake Substation, south of Hwy 8 on County Road Y in Garfield Township. On the way to the substation, it powers the 190 member locations on that circuit. Once it reaches the substation, it is distributed among the other 1,900 members who receive electricity from the Sand Lake Substation, just the same as if the power had been generated and transmitted from a distant power plant.
The ground under the array was restored as native prairie to reduce soil erosion and storm water runoff, while providing pollinator habitat for bumble bees, honey bees and butterflies. We are currently seeking a honey bee partner. We also offer solar tours for schools and community groups. Since it's opening, we've had no concerns and SunTuria Solar has made a positive impact in our community.
Electricity is cleaner
This renewable energy project provides clean, solar energy to help meet the energy needs of Wisconsin and our local membership. Our power mix from Dairyland is currently about 20% renewables and growing. Dairyland is expanding renewable generation to reduce its carbon footprint and ensure safe, reliable power at a competitive rate.
SunTuria Solar is one of 18 solar arrays at co-ops across Dairyland's system. In addition, our G&T energy provider has power agreements with the 149-MW Badger State Solar Facility in Wisconsin, the 98-MW Quilt Block Wind Farm in Wisconsin, the 80-MW Barton Wind Farm in Iowa and the 52-MW Tatanka Ridge Wind Facility in South Dakota. SunTuria Solar is the first and only utility-scale solar in Polk and Burnett counties. But we're certain it won't be the last. As solar becomes more reliable and cost-effective, we will continue to see additional developments in our region.
Electric cooperatives are forward-thinking organizations. We believe solar will play a part of our future and we support the sustainable growth of alternative energy for our local membership.
Please join us for our solar energy seminar August 5 and let us know if we can help answer your questions about solar energy. The future is bright!