Minnesota: Hybrid Wind-Solar Units To Power The Land Of The Lakes

A $10-million project that is planned as the nation’s first “integrated” wind-solar hybrid power project is rising in Red Lake Falls, MN.

By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2017 Issue

Later this year the nation’s first “integrated” wind and solar hybrid project, a $10-million initiative will begin producing power outside of Red Lake Falls in northwest Minnesota, according to a report in Midwest Energy News.

Developed by Juhl Energy, Inc., the Red Lake Falls Project combines two 2.3 megawatt (MW) General Electric 116-meter rotor turbines with a 1 MW solar photovoltaic installation. The company says it will be the first project in the country to use wind integrated solar energy (WiSE) allowing turbines and panels to share a converter, which transforms electrical direct-current voltage for use on the grid.

Developed by GE’s Global Research Center, the WiSE approach is expected to increase annual energy production by 10 percent and the system net capacity by three to four percent.

Each turbine is designed to allow 500 kilowatts of solar energy to be processed through the converter. Typically, converters cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Juhl said, so the savings are substantial when deploying a hybrid. According to GE Renewable Energy, the few wind and solar hybrids that have been built employ separate systems for moving electricity from the field to substations. This creates the need for additional capital costs, additional maintenance and additional monitoring systems.

The solar farm will produce peak energy in summer when it is needed while the wind turbines will perform the same duty in winter. The wind turbines can be curtailed to prevent output from overloading the converter. In these situations, a solar installation has its own inverter while a wind turbine has a converter. Each has a transformer and a separate power line to the substation.

The WiSE approach eliminates all that duplication, saving 10 to 15 percent in capital costs and 25 to 30 percent in operation costs, including maintenance. An inverter is no longer needed, and the converter—with multiple generation inputs—will operate more efficiently, he said.

The wind-solar hybrid model usually does not require transmission upgrades or as much regulatory approval as larger installations, officials said.

GE is working on adding a storage product to add to the hybrid that would create all of the elements needed for a microgrid, Juhl said. Wind energy captured at night—when wind blows the strongest—could be stored and placed on the grid the next day.

The hybrid can produce power for 4.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, a cost far below utilities’ prices in Minnesota.


The City of Isanti, MN is a growing community with strong commercial, recreational, residential and industrial sectors. Isanti is strategically located on the northern edge of the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The City has positioned itself as a business friendly community with a local educated workforce. Investment by Isanti in City Sewer, Water and Storm Water systems in its industrial and commercial parks provide the needed capacity and confidence a business needs to operate and grow. Private sector investment in fiber optic and broadband technologies provide connectivity to information at speeds necessary to complete in a global market. A robust park and trail system provide great recreational opportunities. The crime rate is low and the housing market is booming. Invest in Isanti and join the other successful businesses and residents that have made that decision already.

Coborn’s Marketplace (pictured above under construction), a 45,000-square-foot grocery/pharmacy retail center, was completed in August 2016. (Photo: City of Isanti)

Isanti is home to a diverse manufacturing sector that fuels the local economy. Metal fabrication, welding, precision machining and electronics highlight anchor this community. Metal Coatings and Manufacturing, Advanced Telemetry Systems, Granger Machine and SnoBear USA all call Isanti home. Isanti businesses have shown a track record of growing after they have chosen to locate in the community. Metal Coatings and Manufacturing and Granger Machine have both expanded manufacturing space over the past few years and the still have more room to grow on site. The State of Minnesota has generous business incentives that Isanti uses to close the deal. In 2015-16 the City of Isanti recruited and relocated SnoBear USA from Fargo, ND to a 44,000-square-foot facility in Isanti, Minnesota. Mario J. Nozzarella, Executive Vice President of SnoBear USA summed up the treatment and expertise businesses will receive when they choose Isanti as follows:

“The City of Isanti “Development Team” especially Mayor Wimmer and Economic Development Director Sean Sullivan, were tremendous to work with. The knowledge and expertise of City Officials and Staff helped us every step of the way to navigate through state and local incentive programs. Our collaboration with the City of Isanti was pivotal in securing meaningful business incentives from the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF), Job Creation Fund (JCF) as well as other programs. These results made our move from Fargo, North Dakota to Isanti, Minnesota possible. Isanti is a great community and we are proud to be part of it!”

The City’s efforts landed them an award from the Economic Development Association of Minnesota for business recruitment in 2016, the second such award the City has received in the past 8 years. The available lots in the City owned industrial park are Minnesota Shovel Ready Certified and can be purchased for $1 Dollar for qualifying businesses. Lots range in size from 1.21 acres to 80 acres. Isanti is home to a United Parcel Services distribution facility and also has its own US Post Office to serve your shipping needs conveniently and efficiently.

Growth in the commercial sector has been solid. Construction by Coborn’s Marketplace on a 45,000-square-foot grocery store/pharmacy retail center was completed in August of 2016. Allina Health just completed construction of its new 17,000-square-foot medical clinic/facility which opened on March 1, 2017. Other national retailers have chosen to locate to Isanti based on its location and business friendly climate and more projects are slated to break ground in 2017.

Visitors and residents enjoy top-notch recreational opportunities and venues. One showcase for the City of Isanti is Isanti Indoor Arena- Home of Rum River BMX. This 74,000-square-foot arena is home to the Rum River BMX, and has attracted attention as the nation’s #1 track in 2015 and 2016. The indoor arena, which opened in 2015, has a full concession stand, public bathrooms, bleacher seating areas, standing-room areas, mezzanine seating areas overlooking the track, and large arena doors that can be opened during the summer. This is a one of a kind facility in the nation and people all across the country are taking notice. In addition to this great venue Isanti is also home to Isanti Ice Arena, the Isanti Soccer Complex, Redbird’s Field and award winning Bluebird Park. The 30 plus mile city trail systems connects parks and businesses to the river and other recreational opportunities. Isanti is truly a great place to locate your business, work and to live.


Situated on the Canadian border in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region, Koochiching County has a rich economic history driven by timber and tourism. Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), the largest employer in the county, has been in operation for over 100 years and operates the paper mill in International Falls. Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park—Minnesota’s only National Park—are the largest four seasons-tourism attractions for the area.

Aerial view of Koochiching, MN, a community with a rich history driven by timber and tourism, and a scenic location in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region on the Canadian border. (Photo: Koochiching EDA)

While these industries will remain the core economic drivers in the near term, the County and its largest community, International Falls, have been working to position themselves for future growth and development. Diversifying beyond timber and tourism has been a major goal of the Koochiching Economic Development Authority (KEDA), the county’s lead economic development agency. To that end, the KEDA has been working with its’ local, regional, and state partners to address key attributes for future growth:

Transportation/Logistics. Positioned as the gateway to both Canada and the U.S. along CN Rail’s primary route from western Canadian ports to Chicago, the KEDA created Foreign Trade Zone #259 which covers the entire county. Two development sites with over 80 acres and rail access are near the Port of Ranier—which has the highest volume of rail containers and trains crossing the border into North America.

The Falls International Airport in International Falls is undergoing a new terminal construction. The $13 million dollar project is scheduled to be completed by mid-summer 2017. The airport provides daily commercial air service to Minneapolis and is also a Customs Port of Entry for international flights. Koochiching County, the State of Minnesota, and the Federal Government have all made significant investments in the highway infrastructure that connect the County to markets North to Canada, south to Duluth and Minneapolis, and west to Grand Forks and Fargo.

Infrastructure/Utilities/ Broadband. Koochiching County is served by several broadband providers that have made significant investments in providing high-speed broadband to county residents and businesses. Although rural in nature, the county is wired for business and continues to expand its current coverage. Additionally, the county offers competitive electric and natural gas rates.

Healthcare. The City of International Falls is home to two healthcare providers—Essentia Health Clinic and Rainy Lake Medical Center (RLMC). Both campuses have invested significant dollars in the last two years in technology and personnel to offer expanded services. RLMC just completed the second phase of a remodel including a new state-of-the-art operating room with updated equipment for laparoscopic surgery, advanced radiology equipment—including a new MRI.

Other. Koochiching County has some of the lowest property taxes in Minnesota and some of the lowest cost-of-living, including housing. And, we always tout and value our tremendous quality of life: education, recreation, and culture. Up North, we’ve got it all.

For more information on how Koochiching County can help drive your business success, contact Paul Nevanen, KEDA Director at (218) 283-8585; email at paul@businessupnorth.com; or check out our website.