NPEC’s Solar Research Project
Updated September 2023
Failing equipment contributes to end of solar project
The 6.56-kilowatt solar system installed at our headquarter facility in Carrington has run into some hardware issues. In the early months of 2022, one set of micro inverters failed on the solar system which has been impacting its overall production.
The cooperative would normally replace the broken equipment however the original equipment manufacturer went out of business. As of today, a direct replacement cannot be found on the open inverter market without replacing the entire panel system. As a result, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative (NPEC) has made the decision to decommission the solar system in September 2023.
The system has experienced a continual decline in production over the past year and investing additional resources into maintaining the system would not be practical. We were able to achieve our primary goal of sharing lessons learned from owning and operating a solar system.
The 16-panel system was jointly installed with former sister co-op, Dakota Valley Electric in 2015 as a research project to collect data to present to members as a reference when considering solar options. The co-op initially wanted to learn more about the cost to install, the cost to maintain, how reliable a system would be and what sort of return would members see on their investment. Lessons were learned on all parts which is summarized below.
The project is similar in size to a typical residential installation. It is comprised of 16 panels, in an array of four panels wide and for panels deep. Overall, it takes up an area of about 25 feet long x 28 feet wide.