The county’s planning commission learned more about large solar energy projects at their May 17 meeting. The commission has been working on language for a Renewable Energy Ordinance that would regulate both solar and wind energy systems.
Travis Narum, development director for “tradewindenergy,” gave a power point presentation on the Kansas based company’s solar development and experience. Solar power is the “fastest growing electric generation source in the country.”
The company has developed utility scale solar photovoltaic power projects in several states, ranging from 20 to 300 megawatts. Narum said Fillmore County is a “good place for a solar project.”
It takes three to five years from the beginning of a project to actual construction. There are studies, permitting, environmental studies, land leasing agreements, and other steps including the negotiation of power purchasing agreements.
The company has already been working through some initial steps in Fillmore County for a 50 megawatt solar project. This size project would take about 500 acres of land. The county can permit up to a 50 megawatt project.
Narum explained there is a production tax in Minnesota. For a 50 megawatt project $100,000 per year will be collected in property taxes; 80% going to the county and 20% going to the township or city. During construction a large project will further benefit local businesses for about a year. Participating land owners will benefit from ongoing lease payments.
There has been rapid improvement in safe, solar technology. Costs have decreased 50% over the last five years. As the technology improves, less land is needed for the same project size.
Melissa Vancrum, legal advisor for Tradewind, proposed several language changes to the Renewable Energy Ordinance being discussed by the planning commission. In brief she proposed to have a condition that an interconnection agreement be signed before construction, not as a requirement for a permit to be issued. She maintained there needs to be enough time to cover the risk/investment the company takes; she suggested allowing up to three years after the permit is issued to complete the construction of the project. The ordinance should allow for the transferability of the conditional use permit.
The next meeting of the planning commission will be on June 14. Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins expects a continued discussion and review of the Renewable Energy Ordinance and the subsurface sewage treatment system (SSTS) ordinance.
Board of Adjustment
A public hearing was held on the application for a variance from Shawn Bergey, Section 8, Canton Township, to build an addition onto an existing machine shed. The request is for a variance from the requirement in Section 604.05 concerning the setback from the center of the road. It was determined that the addition to the shed would not get any closer to the road. Adkins said she had received no feedback and there was no comment from the township or the public at this meeting. The variance was granted.
Adkins noted the board of adjustment will hear another variance request on June 14.