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Matt Heck, juwi Solar representative, explains the proposed Tracy Solar project to the Lyon County Planning and Zoning Board last week. From left are Laurel Steen, Sandy Ludeman (chairman), Jon Chalmers (vice chair), Bernie DeCock and Scott Williams. Lyon County Commissioner Steve Ritter is at far right. Also present to hear the Tracy Solar presentation were commissioner Rodney Stensrud and Lyon County Planning & Zoning administrator John Biren (not pictured, far left).

Solar project clears hurdle

By Seth Schmidt

A solar energy project proposed for 200-acres of land near Tracy has moved closer to becoming a reality.

The Lyon County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to grant a conditional use permit to Minnesota Solar, LLC., for the construction of a 24.5 megawatt “solar photovoltaic energy generation facility.”  The county’s planning and zoning board recommended the permit following an April 14 public hearing. The conditional use permit is required for the Tracy solar project because the site is zoned for agricultural uses.

The solar farm site is north of the Northern States Power sub-station at the intersection of Hwy. 14 and the Highline Road (330th Ave).  Minnesota Solar has entered into a 25-year lease agreement with landowners Ron McDaniel, Apple Valley, and his sister, Nyla McDaniel Nordvik, Sammamish, WA, for the use of the site.

Tracy Solar is a wholly owned subsidiary of juwi Solar Inc. of Boulder, CO., which has developed 1,500 megawatts of solar energy projects worldwide.

The Tracy project would generate 31 Megawatts of DC electric current, which would be converted to 24.5 megawatts of AC  Northern States Power (Xcel Energy) has a contract to buy the solar-generated electricity. The electricity would enter Xcel’s power grid through the power lines on the west side of the Highline Road.

The planned project would extend north of the sub-station for nearly a mile along the east side of the Highline Road, except for the Dennis Campbell farmstead and two plots owned by the City of Tracy.  (See attached map).

Solar modules capable of tracking the sun from east-to-west as it moves across the sky, would be installed on poles drilled six to eight feet into the ground, with related electrical equipment.  Concrete used in the installation is expected to be minimal, which would allow the site to be converted back to agriculture.  A small utility shed is to be built on the site.   The solar farm will be monitored remotely, with a minimum of hands on maintenance required.

Juwi officials hope to begin construction in early 2016, with completion by the end of 2016. The company says that the Tracy Solar project represents an “estimated economic investment of approximately $45-55 million in Lyon County.” Local spending during the construction phase on wages, services, and supplies is projected to be “more than $2 million.”  The project will generate an estimated $1.5 million over its life in a solar energy Production Tax.  As many as 100 workers will be on the site during construction.




For more on this article, see this week's Headlight-Herald.