Marshall Solar Farm Taking Shape | News, sports, work

Photo courtesy of David Schelkoph Thousands of solar panels were installed at a 10-megawatt solar farm within the city limits of Marshall. Marshall Municipal Utilities CEO David Schelkoph said the solar farm is scheduled for completion this fall. All of the electricity generated by the solar farm will be used in Marshall, especially by customers like the Archer Daniels Midland power plant, Schelkoph said.

MARSHALL — Construction of a 10-MW solar farm in Marshall is getting closer to completion, said Marshall Municipal Utilities CEO David Schelkoph.

“They will come online this fall, probably in September-October. That’s still the plan.” – said Schelkoph.

On Tuesday, Schelkoph gave Marshall Noon Rotary members an update on the solar farm construction.

Construction on the project began in 2023 on approximately 50 acres of land near the corner of North Seventh Street and Lyon County Road 33 in Marshall. The thousands of solar panels that make up the solar farm are already installed, and installation crews are currently installing the inverters needed to convert solar energy from direct current to alternating current, Schelkoph said.

Construction of the solar farm is generally on schedule, although there have been some delays in the delivery of materials, he added.

All energy generated by the solar farm will be used within the City of Marshall.

“Typically, solar farms of this size are not located within city limits – due to their size, they are located within the county.” – said Schelkoph.

The solar farm is a project worth approximately $40 million. Schelkoph said a large part of the expense will be the cost of lithium-ion batteries, which are used to store some of the electricity generated by solar panels during periods when the sun is not shining.

Of the total project cost of $40 million, about $25 million is for batteries, he said.

The solar farm project is being implemented by Missouri River Energy Services (MRES). Schelkoph said MRES is one of the two main electricity suppliers for Marshall Municipal Utilities. The other supplier is the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which is responsible for hydroelectric dams on the Missouri River, he said.

“Marshall meets about 25% of our hydropower needs.” via WAPA, Schelkoph said. The remaining 75% comes from MRES.

“This organization (MRES) has 61 members in four different states.” he said. “And this organization is investing in building a solar plant here in Marshall.”

Schelkoph said that of the MRES cities, Marshall uses the most electricity. “We take about 12% of their total load, so we are the largest member of MRES. And that’s one of the reasons they built here, because we have a load large enough to handle the specific production of this solar farm.” he said.

Schelkoph said MRES already owns nine wind turbines located southwest of Marshall, but added the solar farm for several reasons. Solar panels had a relatively low installation cost and would also help utilities meet Minnesota’s state-mandated carbon-free energy goals.

However, solar energy has some disadvantages, Schelkoph said. “On average, solar panels will only produce about 22% of the time” – he said. “So that’s the problem, right? We have been out of power long enough to keep the lights on 24/7.”

One way to solve this problem is to store energy. Schelkoph said the Marshall solar farm will have five megawatts of battery capacity. “It will take four hours.” he said. “Right now it’s usually pretty good because our peak period in this community is about four hours. . . So when we really need that energy, we can have it.”

The photovoltaic farm will use lithium-ion batteries, which will be located in individual outdoor units.

“They are not in the building. It kind of helps us a lot with fires and emergency response.” – said Schelkoph.

The Marshall solar farm consists of nearly 21,500 solar panels, Schelkoph said. It took a crew of about 40 people 45 days to install the panels. The panels are designed to rotate to catch the sun, but only along one axis, Schelkoph said.

“They will be positioned at an angle and will track the sun from morning until evening,” he added. he said.

Schelkoph said the solar panels will require maintenance over time. Dust or damage to glass panels makes them less efficient at generating electricity from sunlight. MMU will have a service contract with MRES for the solar farm. Panels installed on a photovoltaic farm have a service life of about 20-25 years, he added.

All of the electricity generated by the Marshall solar farm will be used in the city of Marshall, Schelkoph said. In particular, the Archer Daniel Midland facility in Marshall would benefit from a solar energy source.

“This particular plant is so scaled that all of its power can be transferred to ADM” – he said. The ADM plant uses 30 to 40 megawatts of power, which is about half of the MMU’s electrical load, Schelkoph said. “They rarely go below 20 megawatts, and that only happens in the event of an outage or shutdown for maintenance.” he said.

Schelkoph told the Independent it was good that MRES had decided to store batteries at the Marshall Solar Farm. This would help provide MRES with the opportunity to learn how to use solar energy most efficiently.

“The future of energy production is balance” – said Schelkoph. Renewable energy sources must also be reliable for customers. Failure to invest in storage and other ways of maintaining the reliability of the power grid would have negative consequences, he said.

“Public policy and political policy must change. We must support renewable energy. However, we must encourage the storage of energy so that we can use it even when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. – said Schelkoph.

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