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County goes solar in Empire Township

Dakota County’s goal to reduce its energy footprint has it wading into new technologies. Before the end of the year the county will install solar panels that will provide electricity to its Empire Township Transportation Facility and the Dakota County Communications Center radio tower.

Operations manager Taud Hoopingarner said the panels will provide 7 to 40 percent of the electricity needs for the structures. Hoopingarner said the tempered glass panels will be created by a Minnesota company.

Using state and federal programs made it possible for the county to try solar energy. Hoopingarner said the county has considered solar in the past but cost was a deterrent. He said the county took advantage of a third-party funding mechanism. Newport Partners LLC financed the project. To offset the costs, the company can take advantage of tax credits and energy rebates not available to local governments.

The county will spend about $130,000 for the project. It’s estimated the project is worth about $1.3 million.

Hoopingarner said the county should see a return on its investment in 12 to 14 years. The glass panels have a 30- to 50 year lifespan. The panels will be placed on the roof of the maintenance facility and on a ground mount near the communications center tower.

Adding solar is in line with the county’s energy plan. Hoopingarner said depending on the success of this project, the county will look at other locations where solar may be a possibility.

Since the county enacted its energy plan in 2008, a number of steps have been taken to reduce the county’s energy footprint including purchasing hybrid vehicles, upgrading systems, installing energy-efficient equipment and expanding education efforts.

With the necessary documents recently signed, Hoopingarner expects the panels to go up before the end of the year.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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