Tornado Damages Solar Project at Minnesota National Guard Site

Tornado Damages Solar Project at Minnesota National Guard Site

A 10-megawatt solar array still under construction at Camp Ripley in central Minnesota was damaged after a tornado tore through the 53,000-acre National Guard training site last week.

About 25 percent of the 97 rows of solar panels sustained damage on Sept. 7, including twisted and broken racks that hold the solar panels in place, broken panels and damaged wiring, according to a Minnesota Power press release. The panels were crushed by a large storage container and other debris blown into the array. The utility has begun developing a plan to repair or replace damaged components.

The tornado stripped roofs and paneling off buildings at the facility and left twisted wreckage behind, reported the St. Cloud Times. Several buildings used for housing, training and maintenance suffered major damage. No injuries were reported at the site.

The National Weather Service reported the EF-1 rated tornado struck Camp Ripley with winds of up to 90 mph. The array was designed and built to American Society of Civil Engineers structural codes to withstand 105 mph winds; the panels are tested to withstand the impact of golf ball-sized hail.

Construction on the $25 million solar plant began in May and was nearly complete. The utility planned to install the final panels last Thursday. A planned Sept. 16 celebration of the project’s completion will be rescheduled for next spring.

The training site was poised to become a net zero energy installation after the project was completed.

The 63-acre array would be the largest solar project at a National Guard base.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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