Solar energy technology is based on two main types – photovoltaics (PV), which is the most common way of producing solar electricity in North Dakota, and concentrated solar power (CSP). CSP typically uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays and create heat that, in turn, drives a heat or steam engine. PV power uses the sun’s rays to create direct current electricity.
- Verendrye Electric Cooperative has the largest solar program in the state with more than 260 solar-powered water pumps throughout its service territory, including nine systems installed in 2016. The pumps are primarily used in pasture wells in remote areas where building power lines is cost prohibitive.
- Cass County Electric Cooperative in Fargo, N.D., installed a 102-kW solar array in 2016, called Prairie Sun Community Solar. It is the first community solar project in the state and consists of 324 solar panels located on land owned by the city of Fargo. Any Cass County Electric Cooperative member, regardless of location, may participate in the project, with each panel’s production included as a credit on their electric bill.
- Northern Plains and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperatives installed a 16-panel solar system at Northern Plains’ Carrington, N.D., office in 2015. The total rated output is 6.56 kW per hour, and the cooperatives monitor real time data from the system as a demonstration of what might be used on a small farm, residence, or business.
- Bismarck State College has an 8-kW PV solar array on campus composed of both crystalline and thin panel solar systems so students have the opportunity to study both.
- Whiting Petroleum uses PV in North Dakota for some systems in the petroleum extraction process, like automation controls, programmable logic controllers, flare ignitors, and combustor controls. These systems allow an operator to start up, monitor, and shut down operations as needed.
Sources: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Verendrye Electric Cooperative, Bismarck State College, Cass County Electric Cooperative, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Whiting Petroleum