Solar farm to be built south of Hartland

Published 9:52 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit on Tuesday for the construction of a solar farm south of Hartland.

The conditional use permit allows Novel Energy Solutions, a Rochester-based clean energy firm, to construct a community solar garden farm a half of a mile south of Hartland on Minnesota Highway 13.

The proposed farm includes 12,200 solar panels.

Wayne Sorenson

Wayne Sorenson

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The 40-acre site is owned by Tom Donovan.

Freeborn County planning and zoning coordinator Wayne Sorensen said the site will be the first of its kind in Freeborn County, noting site customers must receive energy services from Xcel Energy.

He said shares will be sold to customers, noting the electricity generated from the share will be sold to Xcel Energy, then credited back to the customer’s energy bill — in effect a payment for their investment.

Novel Energy must still sell shares and secure a building permit for the construction of the farm, noting the four-megawatt solar farm will hold slightly more power than three wind towers located in a wind farm near Hartland, Sorensen said.

Community solar gardens are supported by the state of Minnesota as a renewable energy supply, said Duane Hebert, Novel Energy director of community solar projects. The Xcel Energy program was approved by the state as part of a renewable jobs package in 2013.

He said customers must live in Freeborn County or an adjacent county.

He said he enjoyed working with Freeborn County to secure the conditional use permit, and he looks forward to starting the project.

Hebert said the system will reduce the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions of users equal to 1,284 tons of waste hauled to landfills, more than 8 million vehicle miles driven or 3,584 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

He said subscribers to the community solar garden will save millions of dollars over the 25-year life of the system, noting the money can be saved and spent to support the local economy.

He said he wants the project to start this summer and expects it to last four weeks.

Sorensen noted there will always be a debate about whether it is best to repurpose farmland for solar energy, but the final decision is up to the landowner.

In other news, the board:

Approved a 3 percent assessment for 10 years for Myrtle residents for the city’s septic project.

Approved the construction of a total confinement barn for Derek Meyer in Hartland Township.

Accepted the resignation of Highway Department maintenance workers Bruce Johnson and Ross Miller, effective Apr. 29 and July 22, and approved filling the positions.

Accepted the resignation of Human Resource Officer Candace Pesch, effective April 29, and approved filling the position.

Approved liquor licenses for Oakview Golf Course, Clarks Grove Golf Course and Harmony Park.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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