Sunflower I Grand Opening Event | June 24th, 2021

Connexus Energy celebrated the Grand Opening of the innovative Sunflower I solar array in Princeton on Thursday, June 24th during National Pollinator Week. Sunflower I and its companion array, Sunflower II in Stanford Township are 10 MW in total with 33,450 articulating solar panels on 55 acres built to benefit Connexus member owners: effectively serving 2000 homes. Importantly, it is also a showcase of practices being demonstrated which can benefit all Minnesotans.

Connexus CEO, Greg Ridderbusch pointed out what made the new solar array so unique. “Made Here, Used Here” – This array is locally integrated and electrically designed so that the solar energy that is generated here is consumed here. No transmission lines are needed to move electricity from far away. Communities that host such an array, benefit directly from the array. And from an equity standpoint all consumers in proximity benefit.

Tracks the Sun – The array “wakes up” in the morning pointing at the sun, tracks it during the day, and then “goes to sleep” at sunrise pointing at the setting sun. We get 30% more electricity than a fixed array. In fact, the Sunflower arrays produce energy 35% cheaper than our average delivered price of electricity from our wholesale power provider Great River Energy. 

Layered Value, Same Real Estate – This project showcases how solar energy can be thoughtfully integrated into a suburban community setting. We should no longer just be generating solar energy on a site like this. Connexus looks for stacked or layered benefit opportunities. Sunflower is the first national example of commercial seed cultivation of valuable prairie plant species. This site is a haven for pollinators. And this site openly invites beekeepers to locate Apiaries for honey production.

Many solutions are needed as we green the economy. And while the features of the Sunflower Arrays are “cool”, this is a MN demonstration of cooperative innovation. We are motivated to benefit our member owners, and cooperatives readily share their practices to help others.

Connexus was honored that two state legislators attended and spoke at the event; Zack Stevenson and Jamie Long. We also appreciate the support from Senator David Senjem. Each is an energy policy leader and express a practical environmental ethic.

We welcomed Sabine Engel, Program Director for International Partnerships, University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment to the stage to share comments on the solar outlook for Minnesota. Afterwards, CEO of Novel Energy Solutions, Cliff Kaehler spoke about the highlights of the solar project technology, and finally, Meghan Murray, VP Marketing of US Distilled Products discussed the value of renewable energy credits to meet sustainability goals.

After the brief remarks from our speakers, attendees were able to tour the solar garden and learn more about how the array works while they enjoyed snacks like Sun Chips, Sunflower Seeds, and Frosted by Frenchy cookies. The children enjoyed an electrical safety demonstration from our safety team, took photos behind our Sunflower I facts banner, got up close to an Connexus bucket truck, and enjoyed a coloring sheet complete with a scavenger hunt.

Thanks to Green Valley Green House of Ramsey, each invitee took home a beautiful sunflower plant to enjoy for months to come, along with a gift bag containing wildflower seeds from Prairie Restorations, a mug from US Distilled Products amongst other fun trinkets. The children went home with a bee plushy and the children’s book ‘Bee Love (Can Be Hard)’ by Alan Page and Kamie Page.

Additional thanks to Polaris for providing the GEM electric golf cart and service to transport attendees to the event site and Giants Sunflower Seed Company for providing sunflower seed packets to enjoy.

Learn more about the innovative Sunflower I Solar Array by listening to Connexus Energy CEO, Greg Ridderbusch’s podcast interview with WCCO’s, The Paul and Jordana Show.

Sunflower I Timelapse Video