12/12/2013 1:58:00 PM Geronimo solar farm project goes to PUC by early 2014
by DENISE MARTIN
The plan to site four solar energy farms in Chisago County is now in the hands of an administrative law judge. Friday, December 6 was the deadline for ALJ Eric Lipman to receive final briefs for the contested case. In an e mail to us Lipman advises his report is due in the hands of the MN Public Utilities Commission by January 1. The Press reported Chisago county is considered a potential player in the search for alternative energy for meeting future Xcel needs. The Chisago County HRA/EDA had granted support in written form backing the “Aurora Solar Project” after a presentation by solar project managers at the October HRA/EDA meeting (story Oct 31.)
Last week the Wyoming City Council also heard from two Geronimo representatives and agreed to express support for the Aurora Solar Project, and notify the agencies reviewing this. The council’s comfort level doesn’t guarantee the project gets city approval. Fred Weck, zoning official, explained that ”essential services” are allowed as Conditional Uses in that part of the city, but any site plan would still have to conform to zoning and become conditions of being granted a permit. As one of the four Geronimo Energy proposed solar collection arrays in Chisago County Wyoming would be close to an electric substation on the south end of town. The locations are chosen to minimize loss of energy in connecting to the system and lessen the need for overhead wires, council was told.
The other Aurora Solar Project sites proposed in Chisago County are near the Lawrence Creek substation outside of Taylors Falls, the Lent Township substation, and a substation close to the Scandia-Chisago county border. In total Geronimo has identified 23 sites across the state as feasible for providing the 100 megawatts of needed peaking power. The administrative law contested case was opened last summer and the “public comment” portion closed November 1. The administrative law judge was given the task of holding hearings (in mid-October) gathering facts and then accepting submitted briefs and other documents. He will be issuing a report regarding the entities who are vying for providing Xcel Energy with competitive alternative sources of energy. Xcel put out a Request For Proposals to meet state mandates for developing alternative energy. The RFP entities moving ahead in the process include Edina-based Geronimo-- which proposes the only solar power contribution. The Public Utilities Commission is also looking at RFPs from Calpine, GRE, and Invenergy who propose to provide energy using sources other than solar.
The energy facility permitting staff with the Minnnesota Commerce Department also created an Environmental Report, as the RFP sites were scrutinized for fuel availability, soils and geology, water use, waste creation, traffic, noise and related issues. Once the Public Utilities Commission gets the administrative law judge report it has tentatively scheduled the alternative energy proposals for an early 2014 agenda.