WILLMAR - Kandiyohi Power Cooperative is surveying the land behind the utility’s building to prepare for an approximated 170 solar panel installation to benefit their energy customers.

Great River Energy began the solar project at Kandiyohi Energy Cooperative by proposing a 50-panel solar garden running at 20 kilowatts. Great River Energy generates and transmits energy to 645,000 households in Minnesota and Wisconsin through its member cooperatives, including Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

Kandiyohi Power Cooperative plans to add approximately 120 panels to the garden running at 40 kilowatts, according to Dan Tepfer, the energy management specialist for Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

Ten solar panels were installed at different angles in front of Kandiyohi Power Cooperative earlier in the year to determine the most effective angle to maximize energy collection. This data will be used during the installation of the larger panel array to create the most effective solar garden possible.

“Great River Energy is being proactive in the renewable green energy initiative by starting a project like this,” said Robin Ryks, Kandiyohi Power Cooperative administrative assistant. “Now it is going to be up to the consumers to decide what green energy means to them by either investing in a renewable energy source that doesn’t release carbon dioxide or not investing.”

The average residential consumer uses anywhere from 600 to 800 kilowatt hours per month and each solar panel is estimated to produce around 35 kilowatt hours per month according to Tepfer.

Although there is no set protocol for buying into the solar garden project yet, Tepfer hopes for a system where consumers pay a sum of money up front to reserve any number of solar panels. Whatever energy these panels produce will go directly into subsidizing the consumers’ monthly energy bill.

“In my imagination, the consumer will pay up front to join the program based on whatever the most current energy prices are,” said Tepfer in an interview recently. “If energy prices continue to rise as they have for the past few years, the initial buy-in may seem high, but it will definitely pay itself off in the long run as energy costs increase but a totally renewable energy source is already paid for.”

Kandiyohi Power Cooperative and Great River Energy plan to have the solar garden completed by this fall but it is still unknown when the array will be available to begin providing energy for consumers.