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In this Sept. 2016 file photos, workers put the finishing touches on the solar array.  (File photo)

 

Pierre’s solar power project at the airport has put out as much, or more, as projected, Brad Palmer, the city’s utilities director, told the city commission this week.

It was about exactly two years ago that the city commission approved the project.

It is a joint deal with Missouri River Energy Services, which provides about 40 percent of Pierre’s electric power, and Geronimo Energy of Edina, Minnesota, which puts up solar and wind production farms across the region.

Pierre is the host and gets the power.

Construction began in August 2016 and it started cranking out power in October 2016. Well, not cranking. It’s quiet, Palmer said. And so far the panels have withstood the snow, rain, hail, sleet and gloom of night to perform well, according to everyone concerned, he says.

The power generated by the solar panels goes right into Pierre’s municipal power grid, Palmer said.

With 4,284 solar panels installed on 8.9 acres on the corner grounds of the Pierre Regional Airport, the solar farm has a capacity of one megawatt. That’s enough to power about 200 homes, Palmer said

He provided figures showing that the solar farm’s output has matched, and sometimes exceeded, the forecast production.

It’s annual production totaled 1.932 million kilowatt hours, enough to power more than 200 homes, he said. The one-megawatt capacity is about 1/45, or about 2.2 percent, of the city’s total electrical power peak need, Palmer said.

It’s a small solar farm and a sort of pilot project, but it’s still the biggest solar farm in South Dakota, Palmer said. “So we’re still number one.”

He showed a chart indicating that in winter months, production was down around 100 megawatt hours, and rising to about 225 mWh in summer months.

For all 19 months, from October 2016 through April 2018, actual output was very close or better than projected production, he said.

The efficiency, or “capacity factor,” ranged from as low as about 10 percent of the capacity of one megawatt, in December when the days are shortest, to 30 percent to 32 percent in May, June and July of 2017, he said.

The project cost $2 million. Fagen, Inc. the construction company that’s into building power plants — it’s also constructing the Ringneck Energy ethanol plant at Onida, South Dakota — built it.

“Geronimo Energy and MRES are very pleased with it,” Palmer said. “I know MRES would like to add more solar to their portfolio.”

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