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Solar project near Balaton gets county permit

BALATON — Plans for a one-megawatt solar farm near Balaton can move forward, after Lyon County commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the project.

Developers plan to build close to 4,000 solar panels on 8.5 acres of land east of Lake Yankton, and the electricity they generate would be sold to Xcel Energy. The proposed solar farm would connect to existing Xcel power lines in the area, said Lyon County Zoning Administrator John Biren.

Last week, county commissioners got an overview of the solar project from Biren and Ethan Cox of United Renewable Energy. Based out of Georgia, United Renewable Energy plans to build a community solar project near Balaton through a wholly-owned subsidiary, Big Wolf LLC. The solar project would be part of Xcel’s Solar Rewards Community program, which allows subscribing Xcel Energy customers to get credits on their bill equivalent to the amount of solar power that their subscription contributes to the Xcel grid.

A conditional use permit application for the project came before the Lyon County planning and zoning department earlier this fall. United Renewable Energy was proposing to build around 3,825 solar panels, which would be located on about 8.5 acres of a 67-acre parcel of land owned by the Wendland Family LLC.

The planned solar farm site would be located roughly a quarter mile away from 222nd Avenue and the eastern edge of Lake Yankton.

Biren said the planned solar project would connect with existing Xcel Energy power lines that run along 222nd Avenue, and the electricity generated by the solar panels would be carried to the Lake Yankton substation. Biren and Cox said the existing lines would be able to carry the added electricity from the solar project.

Biren said he hadn’t gotten a lot of feedback on the CUP request or the solar farm proposal. A public hearing was held Nov. 10, but no members of the public attended.

“I received one phone call with questions, and that was from the closest neighbors,” Biren said.

Biren said plans for the solar project met the county’s setback requirements.

The Lyon County Planning Commission recommended a CUP be granted for the solar project, with several conditions. The conditions include that the developers get a land use permit from the county zoning office, and get permission to build a driveway for the solar project. Big Wolf LLC would be responsible for maintaining the equipment at the solar project.

The conditions on the CUP said the developers would also be required to provide funding for decommissioning the solar farm, either by posting a bond, a letter of credit, or by establishing a $25,000 escrow account. The developers would be responsible for removing all solar farm equipment within a year of decommissioning the project.

Under the conditions of the CUP, the permit could be reviewed by the county as needed.

Commissioners voted to approve the permit request.

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