Great River Energy, Minnesota's largest energy cooperative and second-largest utility, on Friday announced its first major construction of solar arrays, which will be built at facilities it owns and at smaller energy distributors around the state.

The company plans to build arrays that will generate 650 kilowatts of power by the middle of next year. The largest installation will be built near its Maple Grove headquarters and will generate 250 kilowatts of power with a mix of types of solar panels and related technologies.

The company said it will build as many as 20 other smaller arrays at distribution utilities throughout the state that are members of its cooperative. It said it is now identifying sites for the arrays. Those projects will collectively produce 400 kilowatts of power.

Great River Energy didn't say how much it would spend to build the arrays.

Rick Lancaster, the company's vice president of generation, said the project will give Great River and its co-op members some experience with solar. "As an organization, we need to understand how these technologies may affect our business now and in the future, as well as research the impacts to our distribution system and evaluate the overall costs to integrate both large- and small-scale solar installations," Lancaster said in a statement.

The arrays, while sizable projects, will ultimately account for just a tiny portion of the company's 3,500 megawatts of generation capability. At 650 kilowatts, they will produce less than one megawatt, which is 1,000 kilowatts.

Great River Energy has 12 power plants and purchases power from several wind farms and other generating facilities to provide power to customers. Its output peak during hot summer days is around 2,500 megawatts.