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Regulators OK Palo solar projects if supervisors do, too

Linn County approval process continues this Thursday

A solar panel is seen at a solar array that will supply power to the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Utilities Board issued an order Tuesday granting electric generating certificates for the Duane Arnold Solar projects near Palo — as long as Linn County supervisors agree.

State regulators will issue the certificates for the two separate projects after NextEra, the company pursuing the projects with Duane Arnold Solar LLC and Duane Arnold Solar II LLC, has filed and the board has accepted a final, unappealable decisions to be made next month by the Linn County Board of Supervisors.

The certificate is a permit that authorizes a company to operate a public facility within an area and is typically for public utilities or similar entities.

The Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission is set to discuss and recommend approval or denial of a zoning change needed for the projects at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Palo Community Center, 2800 Hollenbeck Rd.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors will then vote in August to approve or deny the companies’ request for rezoning under the county’s utility-scale solar installation ordinance.

The Duane Arnold Solar I project proposes to use 316 acres of an 857-acre area to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy. The Duane Arnold Solar II project would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre area to place solar arrays capable of generating up to 150 MW and a 75-MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility.

The state utilities board also granted the companies’ requests for waivers for a hearing and proceedings as the projects are not seeking the authority to use eminent domain to acquire land. Instead, all landowners involved approved and consented to the use of their land through voluntary easement agreements.

NextEra, which has operated in Iowa since 1999, said in June it plans to invest $800 million in the solar project, including $50 million paid to landowners over the project’s 30-year life span.

The company has 11 wind projects in the state. The Palo site — near the decommissioned Duane Arnold nuclear plant — would be its first solar project in Iowa, though it has them in 27 other states.

Last fall, Alliant filed a proposal with the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the large-scale solar project from NextEra and further develop it into the state’s largest solar and battery storage facility. If the projects are approved, NextEra would develop and build the project. Once operational, Alliant would own and operate the project.

If approved by the county, the project would begin operating by the end of 2024.

Separately, progress on a 640-acre solar farm near Coggon — approved by the supervisors — is on hold while a court resolves a case brought against the supervisors by a family who lives near the planned project.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Utilities Board denied Coggon Solar LLC’s request for a certificate until the court acts.

The utility-scale solar farm 3 miles west of Coggon is a partnership between Idaho-based Clenera and Central Iowa Power Cooperative named Coggon Solar LLC. The project, which would be dismantled after 35 years, is planned for land that property owners voluntary leased to Coggon Solar.

In January, the supervisors OK’d the smaller Coggon Solar project on a 2-1 vote.

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2022-07-26 18:59:15

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