New Efforts To Increase Solar Power In North Dakota

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BISMARCK – North Dakota may be near the front of the pack when it comes to wind energy…but there’s another form of renewable energy that the state has barely tapped.

It may be hard to believe, but Bismarck records more sunny day than cities like Honolulu, Orlando and Miami…and while the state is at the forefront of wind energy…it’s well behind the times when it comes to the sun.

Drive around North Dakota and you’re sure to see Wind Turbines all over the place…one thing you won’t see very much of– solar panels…in fact Solar Power is so rarely used, the state ranked 46th, in an annual list of solar power rankings by the Solar Energy Industries Association

But despite the darkness of Solar energy in North Dakota, a new dawn may be on the horizon…just this spring, the states first commercial solar energy project was approved for a rural portion of Cass County near Casselton.

Julie Fedorchak is a commissioner with the North Dakota Public Service Commission and tells KX News there are benefits to solar over wind.

“Really you don’t have the visual impacts or the sound impacts, that wind has, so from a neighborhood standpoint, I think that solar might elicit less opposition than what we’re starting to see with wind”, Said Fedorchak

She adds there would be an extra benefit to solar energy in North Dakota, especially in the Summer, when winds are light and energy demand is at it’s highest.

“When the electric systems are at their peak demand, when people are using the most power, solar is usually generating the most, so that makes it a very attractive resource because it provides power at a time when power is needed the most, it’s a peak resource”, said Fedorchak.

And while a major solar farm isn’t on the horizon for Burleigh County just yet…there are subtle signs solar is gaining more acceptance, Starion Bank has installed Solar panels on the roof’s of several of its branches, and even people are getting into the act…drive by the North Bismarck home of Rick Gelloff and you’re sure to see those familiar panels pointed toward the sky.

“Overall I think It’s great, just to see it as a science experiment it’s obviously giving us some savings so that’s an added benefit, I’m satisfied with that and I think the experiment is working out and hopefully we can get going with another phase to get the return on investment going a little better”, Said Gelloff.

Fedorchak tells KX News a solar farm is a good option for a farmer to think about who may be growing old and can’t handle the daily grind of farming but still needs to pay the bills.

It’s a source of income as sure as the sunrise.

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