FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — One of the region's biggest power companies makes plan to enter into solar farming business. Otter Tail Power Company plans to lasso the sun with a 170,000-panel solar farm.
Just east of Fergus Falls, tucked in along the Otter Tail River and a flurry of fall colors, sits a soon to be retired coal-fired power plant that has been producing electricity for Otter Tail Power for decades. The Hoot Lake plant was built in the 1950s. Now, plans are in the works to capture the sun with a planned 450-acre solar farm. Construction could begin next year, once state and local regulatory agencies approve the plan.
"We have been looking at different alternatives and starting out early," said Otter Tail Power President Tim Rogelstad. "It was very expensive, and we have seen costs drop dramatically in the last three to four years."
The solar farm will be in addition to a $260 million wind farm in Merricourt, N.D.
"Wind has been the renewable option for choice, but as the solar costs come down, we are seeing solar will be more and more prevalent in this region," Rogelstad said.
One benefit of having the solar farm close to the retired coal-fired power plant is that the substation will still be used to get the solar energy out to the 422 communities in the power company's three-state region.
Otter Tail Power will continue to operate with coal at its Big Stone Plant. And 35% of Otter Tail Power's electricity will soon come from energy created from wind, natural gas and solar.