Originally published at Northland News Center.

Ely, MN (NNCNOW.com) — It’s billed as a groundbreaking way to keep the lights on.

It’s a carbon-free power grid and it’s providing electricity to a Wilderness Center near the pristine BWCA.
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Solar panels, generators and batteries are just a few elements that fuel Minnesota’s first functional micro grid.

“It’s ground breaking really because micro grids are going to spread,” said Sundial Solar CEO, Jon Kramer.
Most micro grids feed extra power back into the power line but this one is different.

“What’s unusual about this is it’s totally an independent system away from the power lines. It’s probably the largest micro-grid like it in the state right now and it powers the entire facility including the woodworking shop,” said Pioneering Polar Explorer, Will Steger.

71-year-old Will Steger is a pioneer in polar exploration and created this center in Ely as a place to educate and collaborate with others on solving issues surrounding climate change.

Partners in this project say the power system draws attention to clean energy.

“This is a demonstration project that will show what can be done both for Minnesota and the rest of the world,” said Kramer.

By flipping the switch, Steger says it’s proof there isn’t a need for fossil fuels.

“That’s the exhaust system..lights,” said Steger.

Phase one of the free-standing power system can provide up to 20 kilowatts of power, drawn from solar and battery sources, with a generator back-up.

The grid will also power a five-story retreat center that Steger hopes to have finished by the fall 2016.

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