Petals and Panels: A Wright-Hennepin Electric Co-op project


Not far from the buzz of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, lies a cooperative that has created a haven for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The pollinator garden is located alongside the co-op’s solar project and is proof of the beautiful things that can happen when technology and environmental values work together.

In 2013, when community solar projects were still relatively new, Basin Electric Class A member Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association installed a solar array at its headquarters in Rockford, Minnesota.

Before constructing the first solar project, Wright-Hennepin conducted a survey that ultimately showed the importance of using renewable energy to many of its members. Installing solar panels isn’t a good option at some of these members’ homes, for reasons such as a high initial installation cost or the home may not be well-suited for solar. As a result, the cooperative constructed the projects on its own property to give their members a way to purchase renewable energy. “It’s a way for our members to show their environmental values in a way that works for them,” says Andrea Unger, Wright-Hennepin’s director of marketing and member services.

Every bit of the power from the co-op’s existing community solar projects is spoken for and purchased by members.

Then last summer, Wright-Hennepin took its environmental commitment a step farther by installing a pollinator garden near the solar panels at its headquarters. The garden is over an acre of native perennial plants that attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators – species that are vital to crop production and whose populations are decreasing at an alarming rate.

Just one year after it was planted, blooms already adorn the area, providing beauty to humans and critical habitat to pollinators and other wildlife.

Read more in the summer 2021 issue of Basin Today magazine: Petals and Panels: Wright Hennepin Electric Cooperative builds an environmental oasis outside the big city

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