Opposition builds for 3,800 solar panels near National Scenic Highway by Mankato

Residents in the vicinity of the controversial proposed location for nearly 4,000 solar panels within range of the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway near Mankato want to put the brakes on the project.

The proposed one-megawatt installation by Impact Power Solutions appeared to be cruising toward becoming the company’s third solar project approved in Lime Township already this year when the board of supervisors did something of a U-turn, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Township Supervisor Rick Resch appears to be reaching his solar limit.

“I’m a believer in solar, but I’m not a believer in solar on every single parcel in every single place,” Resch said last week at a meeting of the Mankato Planning Commission, which also serves as the Lime Township Planning Commission. “So I just want to pause for real thinking and consideration of — does this fit the property?”

The township board passed an interim moratorium on new solar projects while supervisors weigh the pros and cons. But the site near the scenic byway remains on the table having already been recommended by the planning commission before the moratorium. For opponents, it’s all about the optics along the scenic roadway.  

Cindi Baker, who owns one of the roughly 30 homes within a half-mile of the planned array, described the area as befitting a scenic byway designation.

“It’s unique. It’s beautiful. (A solar array) should not be there,” Baker said. “… Go find a 40-acre parcel in the back where nobody can see it — not a national scenic byway.”

The Twin Cities developer claims the solar panels would be largely hidden from view by trees and other plantings.

Black Hills spruce and Austrian spruce will be planted between public roads and the array — 26 on the eastern side near Lime Valley Road, 40 on the north side near the junction of Lime Valley and Third Avenue, and about 50 on the western side along Third Avenue. The trees were doubled on the latter side to address the concerns related to the scenic byway and homeowner views.

“On that side, you’ll have a tree every 8 feet,” Wier said. “So as they grow, you’d just have a continuous block.”

But opponents want to block the project altogether with a no vote from the board of supervisors at its next meeting.