Rural County OKs Minneapolis Developer’s Solar Project Over Constituents’ Concerns

It’s farm country in Nicollet County in southern Minnesota–solar farm country, that is, given recent actions by the county board. The county commissioners decided to move ahead with a 3,700 panel solar farm proposed by a Minneapolis green energy developer that has a deal to sell the subsidized power to Xcel Energy.

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The county board unanimously backed the Twin City company’s proposal despite vocal opposition from their constituents. A week earlier, the planning and zoning board also voted unanimously to recommend proceeding with the 1 Megawatt six acre solar eyesore.  Again over the residents’  objections as reported by the New Ulm Journal.

“Where does this end in Nicollet County?” asked Ryan Bode. “I climb my grain bin and see a number of solar farms now. Could there be four, five or six more in the neighborhood in five or six years?”

“With this is in your front yard, property values will decrease. There is nothing appealing in these to me,” said Scott Flowers. “This is a little bit ahead of us now. There is a lot of government money in this. All of it is about money.”

One of the biggest questions involves how the thousands of solar panels will be disposed of after the project’s 25-35 year life expectancy. The fine print says anything that can’t be recycled from this supposedly source of “clean energy” goes into a landfill.

Decommissioning will include the removal of all system components, including: modules, inverters, wiring, electrical equipment, racking, foundations, fencing, underground wires and conduits, and concrete pads. When possible these components will be recycled. Any elements that can’t be recycled will be disposed of… Following removal of the system components, the site will be restored to its pre-construction status and will be used for agricultural purposes.

Dan Rogers, an employee of Minneapolis-based Nokomis Partners who’s listed as the applicant for project owner Nicollet Garden, LLC insisted they will cover the cost of cleanup and environmental restoration. The county estimates the cost will total  $24,909, some $7 per solar panel.

Rogers said the solar array would not pose an environmental or health risk. He also told the board his company would be responsible for decommissioning the project in 25 years after board members questioned whether the county would have to make up the difference if costs exceeded an agreed-upon $25,000 bond.

Yet several other southern Minnesota counties have taken their constituents’ complaints to heart, limiting the spread of solar farms in their jurisdiction, according to the Mankato  Free Press.

Solar farms have caused a stir within rural parts of Minnesota in recent years. Neighbors aren’t thrilled to be near the structures, which often take up agricultural land, and some solar farm proposals have faced bitter community pushback. And solar farm proposals have tended to cluster together close to electric substations, which has caused some residents to feel surrounded by them.

Waseca and Le Sueur counties passed temporary moratoriums on rural solar arrays, while Blue Earth County is reviewing its zoning ordinance concerning solar farms.

Understandably, the backlash appears to be spreading.