Saturday, March 25, 2023

PUC approves Byron Solar project

Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission was in the news locally last week as the members unanimously approved a request by EDF Renewables North America to approve their application for the Byron Solar Project.

The project can now move ahead although there are still a few issues to be worked out with Dodge County regarding the transmission lines.

The $256 million project will be located south of Highway 14 between Kasson and Mantorville and when operational will be capable of providing electricity for up to 30,000 homes. It will be the second largest solar project approved in Minnesota. During its construction the company says it will create 250 construction jobs and will help expand and strengthen the local economy.

The PUC commissioners said the project will help Minnesota meet its new goals for clean energy goals. The goals passed by the state legislature this year and signed by the governor call for state utilities to produce 100 percent carbon-free power by 2040.

We agree the goal of emissions free electric energy is admirable and even necessary as we face climate change, there is just one little problem with this project.

The solar farm will involve a bit over 1,500 acres of land in Dodge County. That is land that is prime farmland.

For that reason, Dodge County and Canisteo officials and some township residents have expressed their concerns about the project since it was first proposed.

Minnesota state law prohibits building large power facilities where the project includes more than a half-acre of prime farmland per megawatt of electricity generation unless there is “no feasible or prudent alternative.”

In January, a state administrative law judge said that the Byron Solar project could go ahead because there is “no feasible and prudent alternative within a reasonable geographic area available to construct (Byron Solar) and not impact prime farmland. She also wrote it would cost a “negligible loss” of farmland.

For those two reasons, she wrote, it would qualify for an exemption to the law.

Much of Dodge County is made up of not just farmland but some of the best and most productive farmland to be found anywhere in the U.S. It seems a little hard to understand how taking more than 1,500 of those acres out of production can be considered “negligible.”

There is also the reference to being no feasible or prudent alternative available with a reasonable geographic area. Electricity produced in an area is not necessarily used by the residents of those areas. Transmission lines send the electricity to areas far away from where it is generated. Depending on who purchases the electricity from the Byron farm it could end up powering homes and businesses far away from Dodge and Olmsted Counties. Are we to think there is no land that is more marginal for agriculture anywhere in a reasonable geographic area for this project?

The bottom line is despite how much the state wants, and needs, to reduce its carbon impact, common sense does need to prevail. There is also a growing need for the agricultural products that this farmland produces.

Much more thought needs to go into these very large projects that take prime farmland out of production before they are approved.

to high school athletes

The winter sports season is winding down at area high schools.

Hayfield’s girls basketball team is still playing as they have earned a spot at the State Tournament. They are scheduled to play their quarterfinal game today, Thursday, at Maturi Pavilion on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

Earlier this month the Kasson-Mantorville’s wrestling squad and individual wrestlers from other area schools wrestled in the team and individual tournaments.

We have enjoyed several months of winter sports from all the teams in Byron, Kasson-Mantorville, Hayfield, and Triton.

This is a good time to take a few moments to say thank you to all the athletes, whether or not they may it to a state championship, for their hard work during the winter season.



Dodge County Independent

Dodge County Independent
Dodge County ADvantage
301 S. Mantorville Ave.
Plaza 57 • Suite 200
Kasson, MN 55944

Dodge County Printing
301 S. Mantorville Ave.
Plaza 57 • Suite 200
Kasson, MN 55944