Rebuking Renewables: Le Sueur County Places Moratorium on Solar Gardens and Solar Farms

It looks like the Community Solar Gardens aren’t very popular with the locals  in Le Sueur County. Earlier in July, the Planning and Zone commission voted to enact a moratorium, or temporary suspension, on new solar facilities.

The moratorium, which will ban applications for new solar projects for one year, comes at a time when solar facilities are being cited closer to city limits and residential properties. According to KEYC in Mankato:

“Separation distances from residential properties is one thing that people are very concerned about. They don’t want to have these panels 50 feet from their house, and by taking this time, we can actually work on an ordinance instead of pushing something through really quick,” said Le Sueur County Planning and Zoning Administrator Joshua Mankowski.”

While some people may be surprised by this turn of events, it was really just a matter of time before local communities in Minnesota got fed up with more and more industrial solar facilities springing up in their neighborhoods. I say this because this has happened pretty much everywhere there have been large buildouts of industrial wind and solar.

Take San Bernardino County, which is the largest county in California. In February, the San Bernardino County board voted 4-1 to ban the construction of large solar and wind farms on more than 1 million acres of private land, bending to the will of residents who say they don’t want renewable energy projects industrializing their rural desert communities northeast of Los Angeles, according to the LA Times.

“Dozens of local residents spoke in support of the proposed ban, known as Renewable Energy Policy 4.10. They came from high desert communities such as Daggett, Joshua Tree and Lucerne Valley, where existing solar projects are seen by many as eyesores that destroy desert ecosystems and fuel larger dust storms.”

Many of the concerns voiced in California could just as well have come from Minnesota. For example:

“The policy approved by the supervisors prohibits utility-oriented renewable energy projects — defined as projects that would mostly serve out-of-town utility customers, rather than local power needs — within the boundaries of Community Plans that have been adopted by more than a dozen unincorporated towns. Construction of utility-oriented solar and wind farms would also be banned in so-called Rural Living zones. Solar projects that are already going through the permitting process would still be allowed to proceed.”

I’m not a fan of bans or moratoriums, but it’s hard to feel bad for solar developers who have forced Minnesota families and businesses to pay higher prices for their electricity so they could line their own pockets. It’s especially hard to feel bad in light of new Energy Information Administration data that shows Minnesota electricity bills reached a new all-time high in 2018.

Minnesota families will see their electricity bills increase even more as Xcel Energy prematurely closes down it’s coal-fired power plants and builds expensive wind and solar. It will be interesting to see if other counties follow Le Sueur County’s lead and pass moratoriums on new solar and wind installations.