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Consumer-scale solar is defined in Linn County as a solar panel or array mounted on a building, pole or rack that is accessory to the primary use of the parcel on which it is located and which is directly connected to or designed to serve the energy needs of the primary use. When electricity is produced at or near the point where it is used it can be referred to as Distributed Generation. Distributed solar energy is typically located on rooftops or ground-mounted, and usually connected to the local utility grid.
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A solar farm, also known as as utility scale solar is defined in Linn County as a group of interconnected solar panels/arrays that convert sunlight into electricity for the primary purpose of wholesale or retail sales of generated electricity. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) most US utility-scale solar power plants produce between 1-5 megawatts of solar power. However some can generate 50 megawatts or greater. The US currently has more than 2,500 utility- scale solar electricity generating facilities.
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.”
A utility-scale solar project requires an application to rezone the area to be used for the solar installation to (RE) Renewable Energy Overlay Zoning District. The Linn County Planning & Zoning Commission shall hear the rezoning request and will forward a recommendation of approval or denial to the Linn County Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors will hold three public hearings for the rezoning request before making their final decision. For more information on the permitting, visit our solar farm webpage. Meeting dates can be found on the Zoning Calendar.
Requests to rezone property to an RE (Renewable Energy) overlay zoning district must meet all current rezoning standards for review in Article IV, Section 107-69 of the Unified Development Code, with some exceptions as noted below. These standards for review are evaluated by Linn County Planning & Development staff in a report that is generated prior to the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The applicable rezoning standards for review are:
Linn County will require any solar developer to meet specific requirements and submit documents detailing and minimizing any impacts associated with the project. Specific requirements for solar projects include:
Documents required of the solar developer by Linn County include:
Most utility scale solar projects last for 25-30 years, which is the average lifespan of a solar panel. At the end of a utility scale solar project in Linn County, the applicant will required to follow their approved decommissioning plan. All decommissioning plans must include details on:
The decommissioning plan will take effect at the end of the project or following a continuous one-year period with no electricity generation. The project owner will have one year to complete all decommissioning activities.