January 22, 2015 at 2:04 p.m.

Feb. 9 is time for local input on four solar sites

Feb. 9 is time for local input on four solar sites
Feb. 9 is time for local input on four solar sites

The Public Utilities Commission expects to make a final decision by June on issuing a permit for the Aurora Distributed Solar LLC sites to be built locally.  

The Aurora application for a permit for a set of electricity-generating solar arrays was accepted by the state in August 2014.  The Dept. of Commerce has already sponsored one public hearing held at the Chisago Lakes High School and in this next phase of the permitting process,  the hearing here in February is held by the Office of Administrative Hearings.  (Docket number at OAH is 11-2500-31886)

The public hearing is in Chisago City Monday, February 9 to gather public comments about the four solar array sites planned in Chisago County.

The process working toward the utilities commission final action requires the Department of Commerce to prepare an environmental assessment of the four sites planned in Chisago County.
Administrative law Judge Barbara Neilson then presides over a series of six hearings where people speak to their concerns and support related to the Aurora solar array sites.  The permit application also covers sites that Aurora proposes to develop for solar power  (see small map) near  Pipestone, Montevideo, Paynesville, Montrose and Faribault too.

The  local hearing is at the Chisago City Community Center, (by the fire hall) starts  at 11 a.m.  Monday February 9.

The purpose of holding local hearings is to encourage local authorities and residents to comment about the sites proposed as solar array locations.  Regulators want to hear of any environmental issues, habitat impacts, or special plant life in the project areas, and if there are concerns about land use conflict.  Aurora staff will be available to answer specific questions and the permit process will be explained in detail.

The sites will generate taxes.  Minnesota imposes a “production tax” based on power output, which is apportioned 80 percent to the county and 20 percent to the location government (township) as well as property tax.

Public comment in general opened January 6 and runs until February 24. Written remarks from people unable to attend the local hearing will be accepted during this timeframe as well.
To submit comments to the regulators always refer to Aurora’s docket number, 14-515 and make sure it’s visible on your correspondence.  

Comment submittals can be placed via electronic mail at the website mn.gov/puc and select “comment on an issue.”

Mailed comments go to MN PUC 121 7th Place East, Suite 350 St. Paul, MN 55101.

What regulators are looking for is any relevant environmental concerns or red flags related to the four solar sites at:
~a location just south of #14 at Kost Trail, that will connect to the Xcel substation directly across #14, in  Lent Township;  
~ also the site alongside the Xcel substation called “Lawrence Creek” just outside of Taylors Falls,
~ and a solar array near Wyoming’s Maranatha Church
~ and the fourth Aurora array is proposed near the Scandia substation, south of Lindstrom, Olinda Trail.


FYI...
Aurora is the owner and operator of the arrays sites.  The developer is Geronimo Energy, of Edina MN.  Aurora proposes a 100 MW (total capacity of the Minnesota sites outlined in this permit) made possible through a distributed solar power project,  providing electricity for Xcel to meet peaking power demands in the next few years.  

Chisago County, because of being home to substations and being prominent in the region’s electric grid,  has various solar proposals on-going in a variety of development stages, proposed by more than one company.   

This Aurora project permit hearing on February 9 is just dealing with the state permit for the four sites described in this story.

Should inclement weather be an issue Feb. 9 you can call 651-201-2213 to see if there’s been a cancellation or check on the public utilities commission website mn.gov/puc.

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