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Solar construction continues
Aug. 4, 2017

By Starrla Cray
Associate Editor

WINSTED, MN – Anyone driving through Winsted lately has likely noticed activity on the south side of town, near the Winsted Municipal Airport.

Soon, Minnesota Solar, LLC plans to install three community solar gardens (1 megawatt each) in this area, at 23121 Babcock Avenue. Of the entire 40-acre site, about 13.3 acres will be covered by solar panels.

Trees and screening

In order to make room for the displays, several trees were removed from the property last week. Observers noted that it appeared the trees were either chipped or ground afterward.

The interim use permit (IUP) does not require Minnesota Solar to replace any privately-owned trees, but the company is required to naturally screen the property from McLeod County Road 1 (Babcock Avenue) and McLeod County Road 5 (230th Street).

Per the application, Minnesota Solar plans to screen the area with a combination of White Cedar Evergreens and Black Hills Spruces, depending on availability.

The solar garden will also be surrounded by a 7-foot-tall chain link security fence. A 16-foot service road access on Babcock Avenue will be constructed to give access to each solar array.

Wetlands and drainage

No solar panels or service roads are to be located in a wetland. No impacts are proposed on any wetlands, but there are numerous areas where the service road is within a foot or two of the wetland boundary.

The agreement states that the solar gardens cannot impact nearby wetlands, and audits will be performed annually to ensure compliance with all permit terms. It is the responsibility of Minnesota Solar to ensure that no impacts to wetlands occur.

For grading and stormwater management, Minnesota Solar submitted a professionally-prepared drainage plan that was reviewed by the City of Winsted and McLeod County.

Property past and future

According to property tax information, the property that is being used for the solar garden is currently owned by Clay Montgomery. Many years ago, the property was the farm site of the late Andrew Gueningsman.

Now, the area is zoned for industrial use.

The permit with Minnesota Solar is valid for 30 years, with a termination date of Aug. 16, 2046. The panels could be decommissioned prior to that if they are not in use for 12 successive months.

Solar subscriptions

Minnesota Solar is actively soliciting subscriptions to this soon-to-be-constructed solar garden. Only commercial, industrial, and institutional properties are eligible to subscribe at this time. Anyone interested in subscription information is advised to contact Minnesota Solar directly. According to the company, the solar garden will provide subscribers with greater access to a less costly and renewable source of energy.

An unrelated community solar garden in Winsted Township is operated by Geronimo Energy, LLC. The Winsted City Council authorized a subscription agreement for this array in March. At some point in the future, the city council may consider a subscription with Minnesota Solar, as well.

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