A three-year project to bring affordable solar power to Detroit Lakes residents has at last borne fruit.

Two arrays, each containing 40 solar panels, were installed at the solar garden site at 1426 Terry St. (near the Rotary soccer fields) this past week, and the arrays are scheduled to be producing power by Oct. 1, according to Detroit Lakes Public Utilities General Manager Vernell Roberts.

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"We've got the wiring to do yet, and then there's the function tests to make sure it (the array) does what it's supposed to do," he said.

Local residents who want to take advantage of this alternative energy source can still do so - but time is running out.

"We have about 12 subscriptions left to sell," Roberts added, noting that all DLPU customers are eligible to purchase those subscriptions, at a cost of $1,075 per solar panel. "Hopefully, we can get fully subscribed before winter."

"We also encourage people to look and see whether they would qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit when they sign up," says Josh Mason, energy services specialist for Detroit Lakes Public Utilities. Mason added that the Detroit Lakes City Council and Public Utilities Commission have set a maximum limit of six panels per customer - and those customers who purchase the maximum six panels could see a significant savings.

"Six panels could produce close to 40 percent of a customer's yearly energy needs," he said, adding that the output from individual customers' solar panels will show up as a credit on their monthly utility bill.

Though the current site has room for at least a couple more arrays - a total of between 60-80 panels - Roberts said those won't be added until the DLPU has signed up enough solar customers to make it financially feasible to do so.

Mason noted that investing in the city's solar garden project is "an easy way to get into solar energy" - without going through the effort and expense of having an array installed on the roof of their home or garage.

A ribbon cutting ceremony and public tour to officially launch Detroit Lakes' new community solar garden has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 3 - which just happens to coincide with Public Power Week, Mason added.

For more information - or to sign up for a solar panel or two - please call Josh Mason at 218-846-7133 or the Detroit Lakes Public Utilities office at 218-847-5658.