New project means more shade for people, more renewable power for a park

It's all about the sun.

Coming soon to a Minneapolis beach: A place to hide from the sun and get some shade, that will also be used to help power the park.

Lake Nokomis Beach will soon have a new solar installation – 18 solar panels placed on top of a new shelter right near the popular Sandcastle restaurant.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says the solar panels will supply about 10.9 percent of the energy that's used at the beach every year. It's part of a larger sustainability effort the board said started back in 2010.

And the Lake Nokomis park has needed more shady spots, the board said in a master plan, so this new installation moves things along on both fronts.

Here's a slide showing the early concept:

This is the latest solar panel project in Minneapolis parks

A handful of lakes and parks in Minneapolis have gotten small-scale solar projects like these.

Since late 2015, they've put in solar panels at Parade Ice Garden, East Phillips Park, Weber Park, and Martin Luther King Jr. Park. But unlike at Nokomis, those have all been attached to existing structures – on the roof of the park building, or a pool house, for example.

They've been paid for mainly by a grant program that Xcel Energy runs, called the Renewable Development Fund. It has active projects going in the solar, wind, hydro, and biomass technologies, the website says, and to date has committed $118 million to renewable projects.

The solar installations at the Minneapolis parks were paid for mainly with a $969,000 grant through the fund. The Park and Recreation Board also kicked in $150,000.

Renewable power in Minnesota

Minnesota is now home to more than 100 companies involved in wind and solar energy generation, a report earlier this year found. And the state ranks seventh nationally for installed wind power capacity, the report says.

And renewable energy accounts for 21 percent of the total energy generated in Minnesota. That puts the state well ahead of schedule to achieve 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, as set out in the national Clean Power Plan.

There are also proposal in the state House and Senate – that have support from both Democrats and Republicans – that would set more goals for renewable energy usage in Minnesota.

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