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home : government : county August 20, 2014

5/20/2014 12:51:00 PM
Dodge County Commissioners Human Services to merge with Steele and Waseca

By Gretta Becay

A representative of Geronimo Energy, Solar Project Manager Tena Rytel, spoke to the Dodge County commissioners at their meeting May 13, 2014, about the solar farm that could possibly be built near Dodge Center.

The entire 100-megawatt project being built by Aurora Distributed Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of Geronimo, will be spread over 20 sites in southern Minnesota. The company is researching 24 sites to allow for optimal site selection.

By spreading the sites geographically, clouds won't affect the entire array and a natural disaster won't wipe out the entire project. The company has been in the solar business only one and a half years but, solar arrays have gotten so cheap, it's economically feasible to get into the business, said Rytel.

The sites chosen are near Xcel Energy substations so there is no need to build new transmission lines. And, transmitting electricity causes roughly a 10 per cent loss of power.

The solar panels are placed on top of poles in the ground with no concrete bases.

There is no real impact on humans, birds, bats, or animals; in fact, the land under the array will be unmowed habitat.

The project will employ about 800 workers during construction and will create about 30 permanent jobs after installation.

The project has been approved by the Public Utilities Commission and the next step is the state permitting of the sites. It was designed to add power to Xcel during the hot summer weeks when people turn up the air conditioning in homes and businesses. Providentially, Minnesota's long summer days will allow the panels to produce electricity when it is needed the most.

The panels are designed to track the sun and will slant towards the east in the morning, west in the late afternoon/evening and straight up in the afternoon. They are made of safety glass similar in strength to vehicle windshields.

Allowing for the time it takes to permit the sites, the company has projected the panels will be installed during 2015 and 2016.

Counties and townships where the arrays are installed will receive $1.20/megawatt hour in production taxes.

The commissioners approved the development agreement with RES Americas, Inc., the company that is erecting 100 wind turbines in Mower and Dodge County within the next two years. Twelve of the towers will be in Hayfield and Vernon townships.

The agreement covers the repair and maintenance of township and county roads that will be used by the company. This summer, roads will be built to the turbine sites and certain intersections will be widened to allow the trucks that will deliver the turbines next year to make the turns onto those roads.

Highways 30 and 56 will also be used by the company. County Engineer

Guy Kohlnhofer explained that the state Department of Transportation has the ability to videotape their roads to document damage.

Each turbine requires 450 cubic yards of concrete in its foundation, (50 trucks full). These trucks will be using the roads this construction season.

Human Services/Transition Director Jane Hardwick explained that Tuesday was the anniversary of the decision to merge the county's Human Services delivery with other counties'. The county first authorized the project planning in 2009. It's been a long bumpy road but the service delivery authority, now named the Minnesota Prairie County Alliance, will take over county Human Services as of Jan 1. At this meeting, the commissioners approved the joint powers agreement with Steele and Waseca counties, the two counties that, with Dodge County, make up the authority.

In other business, the commissioners agreed that the county should hire an attorney to begin preparations for a possible Alcorn lawsuit. Alcorn has challenged the county's way of taxing certain property.

A similar lawsuit in Waseca County recently wrapped up in that county's favor.

The commissioners also approved appointing Lori Kindschy to the county Economic Development Board.

The commissioners will meet again at 9:30 a.m. May 27 at the courthouse annex.

Claremont Service

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