A unique partnership with a goal of equitable member access to renewable energy was solidified when a 3-megawatt solar array broke ground in October near the Grand National Golf Club on the grounds of Grand Casino Hinckley.
A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources will develop, operate, and own the solar array; East Central Energy (ECE) will purchase the array’s output and sell to Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) for a defined period. MLCV is leasing the land to NextEra for free over the next 30 years. The project is expected to be complete by summer 2022.
“The way this transaction is structured,” explains ECE VP/COO Andy Olson, “keeps Grand Casino Hinckley on their load control program, while allowing ECE to stay within the terms of our contract with our power supplier, Great River Energy.”
The project will impact the Mille Lacs Band and Hinckley communities by helping reduce the region’s carbon footprint. For MLCV, investing in renewable energy resources as a tribally owned entity aligns with its corporate values. The solar array will offset the equivalent of taking nearly 900 cars off the road for a year.
“Equitable member access to renewable energy is an important initiative for ECE,” Andy highlights. “Combined with MLCV’s plan to produce and consume renewable energy, we anticipate a mutually beneficial outcome.”
The solar array will be sited in a way that captures the maximum amount of daily sunlight. Single-axis panels will tilt and track the sun as it moves through the sky from east to west, which is important because it will generate output late in the day, which is typically when energy demand peaks; it’s also the most expensive time of day to purchase energy from the market.
Mille Lacs Band member and MLCV Youth Intern Jaeden King emphasizes, “The solar array in Hinckley is a great step forward to clean energy use... As a part of the younger generation, I worry about climate change. As an Anishinaabe person, I worry about climate change. It is important for us as a tribal-owned property to protect our planet. As Native people we are taught to care for and respect the land. I’m happy to see this project move forward.”
Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project!