Utility-scale solar projects in Linn County have been receiving a lot of attention lately, with multiple stories and editorials on the subject reported in the local media. There are currently two developers working on utility-scale solar projects in the county - Nextera and Clenera. Clenera has submitted an official application for review, while Nextera has not yet submitted an application. All documents associated with the pending projects as well as information on upcoming public meetings can be found on the Linn County website.
Utility-scale solar is different than consumer-scale solar, which is the type of solar installation you may see on your neighbor’s roof. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “the primary defining characteristic of utility-scale solar projects are that they sell the power they generate directly into the electric grid. What distinguishes utility-scale solar from consumer-scale solar is both project size and the fact that electricity is sold to wholesale utility buyers, not end use consumers.” Consumer-scale solar projects do not require special permitting above and beyond obtaining a building permit from Linn County Planning and Development.
Proposed utility-scale solar projects in Linn County must undergo a thorough review for permitting that requires a rezoning process. The rezoning process is robust and includes benchmark reviews from the Technical Review Committee, Planning & Development staff, and the Planning & Zoning Commission before any application is presented to the Board of Supervisors. Each of these meetings is open to the public, and public comment is taken during both the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting and the Board of Supervisors meetings. View a flow chart of the process.
In addition to meeting general rezoning requirements, proposed utility-scale solar projects must also meet specific requirements regarding the potential unique impacts of these large scale projects including: glare minimization, visual screening, fencing, mitigation plans for potential damage to public infrastructure such as roads, and a decommissioning plan with accompanying financial security. A more thorough explanation of the review requirements is available on the Linn County website.
Still have questions or want to learn more about utility-scale solar or solar energy in general? Visit the Solar Energy page on LinnCounty.org.