Proposed utility-sized solar farm in Yellow Medicine County, western Minnesota

Proposed utility-sized solar farm in Yellow Medicine County, western Minnesota

GRANITE FALLS – A renewable energy company with solar and wind projects in 23 states is interested in developing a utility-sized solar farm in Yellow Medicine County.

Scout Clean Energy LLC of Boulder, Colorado, is negotiating with landowners for a planned solar farm that could cover 1,200 to 1,600 acres and produce 150 to 200 megawatts of electricity, according to information provided to the Board of Commissioners. of Yellow Medicine County at its Dec. 13 meeting. It could power about 22,000 homes.

Martha Belshaw, senior associate project manager at Scout Clean Energy, told commissioners via a virtual link that the project was in the “very, very early” development stage. The company has lease agreements with landowners for just over 600 acres and is in talks for another 1,000 acres, she told commissioners.

The project would be located southwest of Granite Falls near the Hazel Creek electrical substation which was erected for the CapX 2020 power line project. CapX2020 was a joint initiative of the utilities which constructed approximately 800 miles of new infrastructure, both lines and substations, from 2004 to 2017 to modernize and expand the transmission network in the Upper Midwest, according to a summary from the utility group that is now known as The Partners from Grid North.

The ability to connect to the regional transmission grid through the substation is what brought Scout Clean Energy to western Minnesota. It has available capacity to handle additional power without significant capital investment, she explained.

Construction of the project could start in late 2029 with an expected start in 2030, according to Belshaw. Bifacial solar panels that can use direct sunlight as well as that reflected from snow to generate electricity would be mounted on stands and track the sun. Native grasses and vegetation would be planted under the panels.

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A Colorado company is proposing a solar farm in Yellow Medicine County that could cover 1,200 to 1,600 acres and produce 150 to 200 megawatts of electricity. It is in the very early stages of development, with construction not expected until 2029. This photo from 2017 shows the construction of a much smaller solar farm – 37 acres – on the edge of Atwater, off the US Highway 12.

Carolyn Lange/West Central Tribune file photo

The solar farm would have a projected lifespan of 40 to 50 years. Upon completion, all materials would be removed and the land would return to its original state.

The project area in the townships of Minnesota Falls and Hazel Run is primarily agricultural land. Newly elected County Commissioner Mitch Kling, who operates land in the area, said the company has offered attractive rental rates for landowners.

Belshaw said the company is providing consistent payments to landowners throughout the life of the project. The project would generate economic benefits for the region during construction.

Solar farms are exempt from property taxes, but instead pay a tax on the production of solar energy. The company estimates the county and townships would share about $20 million in tax revenue over the life of the 50-year project based on 150 megawatts of generation.

Known as Schiller Solar Farm, it is one of more than 50 solar and wind projects the company currently has in the works, according to Belshaw. The company will operate the solar farm as the owner, she said, stressing that the company would remain committed to the local community. She said the company partners with rural communities early in the process so that all stakeholders are included.

The longest ticket item for the project, she said, is obtaining approval from the utility that owns the substation and the entity operating the transmission system. She said Xcel Energy and MISO, the independent system operator in the Midwest, are studying the project’s impact on the transmission system and what it would cost to adapt it. These studies typically last three to five years, she said.

Scout Clean Energy will install a solar resource assessment station at the site to record the solar and meteorological date of the location, according to Belshaw.

Solar power currently provides about 3.5% of Minnesota’s electricity, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association. Most solar farms in Minnesota are community solar gardens of less than 1 megawatt.

There are a smaller number of utility-sized solar farms, including Marshall Solar LLC’s 62.25 megawatt farm in Lyon County covering 355 acres and North Star Solar’s 138 megawatt covering 1,000 acres in Lyon County. Chicago. Xcel Energy has proposed building the state’s largest solar farm at 466 megawatts near Becker.

The Xcel Energy project near Becker is one of eight utility-sized solar farms currently on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s permitting docket.

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