PUC gives go-ahead to Byron Solar farm
Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission has given its’ approval to a 1,500-acre solar project south of Highway 14 between Kasson and Byron.
When completed, the $256 million Byron Solar project will be the second-largest solar farm in Minnesota, encompassing just over 1,500 acres. The project was approved unanimously by the PUC last week despite objections by Dodge County, Canisteo Township, and some residents of the township, because of the amount of prime farmland that it will occupy.
In January, an administrative law judge determined that the project would cause a “negligible loss” of farmland in Dodge County and would therefore qualify for an exemption to the state law regarding prime farmland. That law prohibits building large power plants that include more than a half-acre of prime farmland per megawatt of electricity unless there is “no feasible or prudent alternative.”
Residents of the township and the county have said that the project is located on prime farmland that will be taken out of production. It will also limit the ability of individuals to rent land and equipment will have to be transported longer distances to farm.
In her decision Case had written “There is no feasible and prudent alternative within a reasonable geographic area available to construct (Byron Solar) and not impact prime farmland.”
EDF officials have also said that the property owners where the project will be located have voluntarily agreed to lease their land to the company.
Kate Sieben, chair of the PUC said that the project will help reach the new state clean energy goals to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions outlined in a recent bill passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz. The law calls for the state to be 100 percent carbon free by 2940.
The solar farm is being developed by EDF Renewables which says that when completed it will be able to provide clean, renewable energy to offset consumption from approximately 30,000 homes.
It will generate 200 MW of solar energy which will be connected to the electricity transmission system operated by the Midwest Interconnect Systems Operator (MISO). Transmission lines will connect from the project substation to the Byron Substation.
Dodge County Commissioner Rodney Peterson said earlier this week that although the solar farm will be built, the county and EDF have still not agreed on some of the details of the project involving transmission lines.
EDF officials have said construction is expected to begin next year with the project becoming operational in 2025.
To date, the largest solar farm approved for the state is Xcel Energy’s project in Becker that will generate 460 megawatts of electricity. The Becker project was approved in September and will cost $690 million.
Several other solar farms are now pending decisions before the PUC.