Solar power guidelines to be added to land use ordinance

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Morrison County has been approached by a company looking into the construction of a 70-acre solar farm in District Three, approximately two miles north of the Little Falls Airport.

Due to the lack of language that encompasses solar energy options, the county is formulating a new section for the current land use ordinance.

Topics to be addressed in the ordinance include community solar energy systems, ground-mounted and rooftop solar energy systems, solar collectors and solar farms.

The Board discussed definitions and permit and fee requirements with Planning and Zoning Administrator Amy Kowalzek at a recent planning session.

“We are taking time to do our due diligence and to make sure it’s a thoughtful process,” Kowalzek said. “One goal of the county’s comprehensive plan is to look at alternative energy.”

A comprehensive plan is the guiding policy document for all land use and development regulations within unincorporated portions of the county.

On the other hand, Morrison County’s comp plan sets aside high-quality agricultural land, which a large solar farm would take out of commission, Kowalzek observed.

Commissioner Jeff Jelinski pointed out that something 70 acres could rightly be considered a “farm” — a solar farm.

Possible concerns brought up during the discussion included a loud hum emanating from solar panels. Electromagnetic frequencies surrounding such a facility could be quite high. The Board wondered if reflections from the solar panels could effect airplane traffic.

“We want to take an approach that is not overly burdensome,” she said. “What we have put together uses language born out of an ordinance written by the Department of Commerce and ordinances in Douglas County and Murray County.”