Minnesota Power will use locally made solar arrays when it embarks on a $40 million project that would add 20-megawatts of solar generation across northern Minnesota. The project is intended to help the economy recover from COVID-19.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday OK'd the construction of a 9.60-megawatt array next to the Laskin Energy Park in Hoyt Lakes, a 10-megawatt array by the Sylvan Hydro Station near Brainerd and a 1.6-megawatt array on Riley Road in Duluth.

The projects will use solar panels made by Heliene Inc. in Mountain Iron, Minnesota Power said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

“The construction of solar arrays at sites in Hoyt Lakes, near Brainerd and in Duluth will provide local construction jobs, boost the tax base of local economies, and provide more clean energy for our customers," Allete President and CEO Bethany Owen said in the release. "These economic recovery projects also gave us a great opportunity to begin incorporating changes into the procurement processes in order to identify more diverse suppliers and ultimately strengthen communities.”

Last summer, Minnesota Power announced plans to speed up the projects after the PUC urged utility companies to fast-track renewable projects to help boost the state's economic recovery from COVID-19.

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“At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission asked the regulated utilities to consider accelerating planned investments to support Minnesota’s ongoing economic recovery. Speeding up the construction of these three solar facilities, which will procure local labor, including a regional solar panel manufacturer, will continue advancing growth in northern Minnesota,” Commissioner Joseph Sullivan said in a separate news release.

Minnesota Power said the project will create 38 local construction jobs, provide energy to 4,000 homes, add $10 million to the 2021 gross regional product and increase local government revenues by $165,000.

Construction is expected to begin this summer and the arrays will start generating power in 2022, the company said.