The Mower County Board of Commissioners received an update from NextEra Energy projects in the area, including their wind farm in Dodge and Steele Counties as well as a solar project within Mower County.
During the board’s meeting Tuesday, Tom Von Bische, Early Stage Development for NextEra presenting for Mark Lennonx, project director of renewable development for the Dodge County Wind Project (DCWP), brought the commissioners up to speed on a total of three projects with the DCWP having the most immediate impact. About 10 miles worth of transmission line will need to be run to a substation within Mower County. The line will mostly follow right-of-ways, though Von Bische said that a portion will have to be “co-located on currently existing power lines.”
“This has been in various stages of development for almost five years,” Von Bische said.
The project is currently being reviewed by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Von Bische said NextEra and the DCWP are hoping to begin construction in the spring of 2023 with an estimated completion date of fall that same year.
When completed, the DCWP will consist of 79 wind turbines capable of generating a combined 259 megawatts of energy.
A plan that is a little more far reaching is the Timberwolf Solar Project.
“This project will be in 2024 and will be a 150 megawatt solar farm,” Von Bische explained.
Plans call for the panels to be placed on 1,000 acres that could potentially run alongside the Shooting Star Trail between Adams and Taopi in close proximity to the Adams substation just east of the community. A portion of the 1,000 acres considered to be farmland would be taken out of production for 30 years and then be reintroduced.
Von Bische said the company hopes to conduct some environmental work at the site this year, before the snow. He also said that the land procurement effort has been going well.
As the project develops, NextEra will have to work with the state to ensure that various plants and native species are included in the final plan as required by the State of Minnesota. This would include pollinator species within the solar power facility.
An interesting note of the solar project is that the solar panels would be two-sided, allowing for solar collection from both sides of each panel, making them more efficient in the winter months.
“It was discovered that some of the best available sunlight is bouncing off the snow,” Von Bische said.
In other news:
Health and Human Services Director Crystal Peterson gave an update on the COVID-19 situation locally. While active cases seem to be dropping slowly, that’s not the case in Mower County.
“We’re not really seeing a drop here locally,” Peterson said. “We’re really staying steady.”
Peterson reported that the county is hovering around an average of 30 cases per day. She also reported a higher number of breakthrough cases for those with the vaccine, telling the board that 1.21% of cases have been breakthrough. The county is attempting to collect data to get a more thorough local look.
The county is also working with Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin to create a plan for vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds when the time comes.
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