D.E. Shaw buys, kicks off construction of 100-MW North Star Solar project

D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments LLC (DESRI) announced July 12 that it has acquired the 100-MW North Star Solar Project from Community Energy Inc. and has begun construction on the project, which is located in Chisago County, Minnesota.

“We are pleased to partner with renewable industry leaders like Xcel Energy and Community Energy as we begin construction on the largest solar energy project in the Midwest,” said Bryan Martin, managing director and head of U.S. Private Equity at the D. E. Shaw group. “DESRI is excited to expand its footprint into Minnesota with a groundbreaking project that we expect to provide both jobs and clean energy to the region’s citizens and businesses.”

Upon completion in late 2016, North Star will be the single largest solar energy project in the Midwest, and one of the largest in the U.S., the company added. North Star is located on private agricultural land and has a 25-year power purchase agreement with Minnesota-based Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy.

“We’re pleased to see the North Star project moving forward as we work to bring more solar energy to our customers,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy Minnesota. “This large scale solar project is part of our plan to double the amount of renewable energy we deliver to customers and achieve a 63 percent carbon free energy by 2030.”

The North Star project will ultimately be made up of more than 400,000 crystalline photovoltaic modules using single-axis tracking technology that follows the sun as it rises in the east and sets in the west. This tracking technology helps to increase both the project’s output and the value of the output to the utility system.

“This project is part of our vision to bring utility-scale solar at a competitive price to Minnesota and the broader Midwest,” said Eric Blank, President of Community Energy Solar LLC. “We were drawn to Chisago County as a great combination of available land, welcoming communities and a strong interconnection point that is close to the Minneapolis / St. Paul load centers.”

The project will be constructed by Swinerton Renewable Energy, a leading national renewable energy construction firm. The project is expected to employ over 300 people during construction and come online in late 2016.

“North Star will not only offer over 300 jobs during construction, but also provide the local workforce with valuable training that will benefit future solar projects in the area,” said George Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Swinerton.

D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments and its affiliates acquire, own, and manage long-term contracted renewable energy assets in North America. DESRI’s portfolio of renewable energy projects currently includes 23 wind and solar projects that represent more than 1,100 MW of aggregate capacity. DESRI is a member of the D. E. Shaw group, a global investment and technology development firm.

Since its inception in 1999, Community Energy has developed more than 1,000 MW of solar and wind power. Headquartered in Radnor, Pennsylvania, and with offices in Boulder, Colorado, Community Energy has a strong presence in both eastern and western renewable energy markets.

Swinerton offers Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC), and SOLV services for solar photovoltaic plants throughout North America to a diverse range of clients.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.