Solar development installed to help refinery operations

On 300 acres to the west of the Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, work is now beginning on building an interesting contrast of power: a huge solar array to help power the refinery. The dichotomy of traditional energy vs clean energy, side by side, is not lost on Pine Bend.

"Our fuels are valuable and needed for very long into the future," Pine Bend’s Plant Manager and VP Geoff Glasrud told FOX 9. 

Even with increasing efforts to move toward cleaner and renewable energy, petroleum is not going away anytime soon. But they can make the process cleaner, which solar energy will do.

"It reduces our emissions in making our products that we make today. It reduces those emissions," Glasrud said.

Pine Bend is the largest refinery in the Upper Midwest, processing 375,000 barrels a day.  

It provides the majority of the aviation fuel for Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, supplied by a direct pipeline. To create fuel requires power, and Pine Bend is one of the larger consumers of electricity in Minnesota.

300 acres to the west Rosemount will be a large solar array to help power a petroleum refinery. The proposed $75 million solar array will be at least 100,000 panels.

The proposed $75 million solar array will be at least 100,000 panels. They’ll have dual surfaces, so that in the winter they collect solar energy reflected from the snow. The 45-megawatt installation can provide up to 30 percent of the plant’s power needs on full-sun days.

Overall, they estimate it’ll be about 10 to 12 percent of their electrical needs when averaged over a full year.

"It’s a great project," Glasrud said. "I’m excited for this project because not only does it improve our efficiency on a cost standpoint, but it’s a great stewardship benefit as well."

The solar array will be one of the largest in Minnesota. But Pine Bend believes there is no other kind like it, one that provides power directly to a facility, anywhere in the country that is bigger.

Since it should bring down their productions costs, it’s possible this ultimately could help with prices at the pump, as well as for airlines, though that is hard to fully predict with a commodity.

The project is set to be done on one year.

"This makes sense," Glasrud said. "And it’s win-win across the board: for the refinery, for consumer, for the environment."