LESTER PRAIRIE, MN McLeod County Planning Commission, after listening to a presentation from Geronimo Energy during its Dec. 23 meeting, recommended approval of a conditional use permit (CUP) for a 40-acre solar energy complex near Lester Prairie.
The site is located south of Highway 7 along McLeod County Road 9.
Lester Prairie Community Development Director Adam Birkholz attended the meeting, and said the project was described as “low impact,” because it will not create noise, and is low to the ground.
County Commissioner Ron Shimanski, who serves on the planning commission, agreed.
“I think it will be minimally obtrusive, and possibly somewhat attractive,” Shimanski said, noting the plan includes planting trees and shrubs to provide screening from neighboring properties and from County Road 9.
“The impact on the land itself is minimal,” Shimanski added.
At the end of the project’s predicted 25-year life expectancy, the site could easily be returned to agriculture or converted to another use if it is determined a solar facility on the property is no longer desirable at that time.
Shimanski said some concerns were raised by Winsted Township and the City of Lester Prairie, but the planning commission determined the plan addresses those concerns.
One concern was glare from the panels. Shimanski said glare will be minimal, and will not affect traffic on County Road 9.
Regarding a concern about weeds within the project area, Shimanski said the plan is to establish vegetative cover that will include wildflowers and be beneficial to pollinators, such as honeybees.
Shimanski also noted the project will have a positive financial impact on the county, because it will provide additional tax revenue.
The CUP will be on the agenda for approval during the county board’s Jan. 5 meeting.
Shimanski predicted there will be requests for more solar projects along the Highway 7 corridor, due to the proximity to the large electric substation located at the intersection of Highway 7 and McLeod County Road 1.
“We may see more of these proposals in the not-too-distant future,” Shimanski commented.