June 12, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.
Geronimo Energy has identified a 305 acre location, combining parcels owned by three families, that could provide 50 megawatts of solar power. Affected governments are being informed of the project, with the final Geronimo presentation set for Chisago Lake Township Supervisors at their regular meeting June 17. The Chisago County Board last week voted to express official support sending a letter backing the newest site, which Geronimo will submit to Xcel as part of the process of negotiating for a power purchase agreement.
Geronimo is calling this the “Sunrise Solar” project. The array would be south of 367th and on the west side of Kost Trail (County Road 11.) The power generated would feed into the Lent Township Xcel substation.
Nathan Franzen, of Geronimo Energy, told a group of interested citizens last week that the company will finish submittals to Xcel in two to three weeks.
The site “...is one of the better sites we have found in the region,” Franzen added.
Geronimo’s original collection of four solar arrays, in Chisago County and several other sites in Minnesota, were dubbed the “Aurora Project.” This “Sunrise Solar” array is in addition to the original four.
Franzen said Geronimo has done soils analysis and has “secured rights” to the land. He cautioned that, “...until you have a contract (for the power purchase) nothing is for certain.”
Geronimo will do any required environmental study and archaeologic reviews at this site as the process moves forward. State agencies will also be commenting on the solar farm permit request.
Franzen said construction on the “Sunrise Solar” project probably wouldn’t begin before 2016.
Franzen explained that the future “production tax” Geronimo will pay on the facility isn’t calculated yet-- it will be based on generating capacity. He estimated the tax as a whole at around
$100,000 annually; but a breakdown last week on what individual government units might expect as their apportionment wasn’t available.
Mark Koran, who owns property west of this project, questioned the connection route to the substation, which sits south and west of the “Sunrise Solar” project.
Will there be overhead or underground lines? Koran asked.
Franzen explained Geronimo is open to either overhead or underground. It’s up to the group that supervises electric transmission system components in the midwest region (MISO) as to exactly where Sunrise Solar would interface with the substation.
Geronimo prefers connecting to the 115 kV line in the southwest corner of the substation, “or in that quadrant” Franzen said.
Applying to make the inter-connection “takes time,” Franzen said.
In response to additional questions from Sunrise Township official Jeske Noordergraaf, Franzen said there will be security fencing around the site. There are plans for some additional screening (plantings) on the north edge of the site.
A structure will be needed to hold maintenance equipment, etc. Solar farms don’t create a large number of vehicle trips or require fuel deliveries, etc. An estimated on-going employment for eight workers is projected for operating the project.
Franzen said the other arrays in Chisago County are being designed to utilize “tracking” panels that rotate ever so slowly to follow the sun’s path. It is not yet decided if the Sunrise project will be fixed or tracking.
Franzen said Geronimo asks for letters from affected local responsible governing units to show the company has “done its homework” and that the community support is there. “If we’re told the project isn’t wanted we wouldn’t spend any time on it,” he added.
The Sunrise Solar site is unique in that it covers an area that straddles three townships and North Branch city. All affected governments have been (or in the case of Chisago Lake Township next week) will be asked to lend their support.