Xcel Energy Wednesday in North Branch dedicated its North Star solar project, one of the largest in the United States.

North Star includes 440,000 solar panels spread over 1,000 acres in Chisago County, and is expected to produce enough electricity  – when the sun’s out – to power more than 20,000 homes.

The solar facility can produce 100 megawatts of power, which compares to about 5 megawatts for projects within Xcel’s community solar garden program. A megawatt is a million watts and a traditional coal-fired power plant generates around 600 megawatts.

North Star is slated to being producing power in December.  

Xcel will buy power from the big solar plant as part of a 25-year contract. North Star is owned and managed by D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments and was developed and constructed respectively by Community Energy Solar and Swinerton Renewable Energy.

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