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Fond du Lac Band Unveils Largest Solar Farm in Minnesota Power Grid

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Last week, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa debuted its new solar farm in Minnesota. The 1-megawatt solar array will cut carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 2.6 million pounds annually compared to coal-generated electricity, reported duluthnewstribune.com.

The tribe's solar farm will power 150 area homes and power about 10 percent of its Black Bear Casino electric needs.

Currently the largest solar array in the Duluth-based utility Minnesota Power's service area, the $2.2 million project covers five acres of a reclaimed gravel pit near its Black Bear Casino in Carlton. Funding for the tribe's solar project stems from Minnesota Power's settlement agreement with federal regulators filed in court in July, 2014. Under the agreement, Minnesota Power is paying a $1.4 million civil penalty for alleged pollution-control violations as well as pumping another $4.2 million into conservation and clean-energy projects, including the Fond du Lac solar farm. The utility company contests any wrongdoing, but has been enthusiastic about the tribe's foray into solar.

The Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee ratified the Kyoto Protocol in February 2007, pledging to obtain 20 percent of electricity use from renewable energy resources by 2020. The tribe is four years ahead of its 2020 carbon reduction goals, and has also employed energy-efficient LED lighting in several buildings.

Among other energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, the band is assessing the potential for: commercial wind power, the economic feasibility for a possible hydroelectric project, and utilizing biomass from byproducts of the band's logging and fuel reduction operations.

Beyond its green power and gaming ventures, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa runs businesses in education, insurance, construction, logging, gas, grocery, radio, social services and more.