Minnesota city fights solar system approved by state

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Chip Purcell, who built his family’s dream home in woods and fields just outside the city, got quite the shock when he heard about a new neighbor — a 70-acre solar farm.

“While building, we heard about it, but we didn’t have any time to act against it, like we would have wanted to,” Purcell said about the six-megawatt solar farm planned next door. “We’re not a big fan of it at all.”

The farm joins 20 other Aurora Solar systems around the state recently approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Once up and running, the $250 million Aurora project expects to produce 100 megawatts toward a state-mandated goal to generate 1.5 percent of Minnesota’s power.

“Aurora Distributed Solar, LLC is excited by the prospect of bringing positive economic impact (in the form of increased tax revenue and job creation) and clean energy to the local Annandale community,” Aurora said in an emailed statement through Geronimo Energy, project developer.

But the central Minnesota city has filed a request for state regulators to reconsider their decision on a project dogged by local concerns. That action will likely stall the start of construction by weeks, possibly longer.

“I’m very, very happy that the city is acting now,” Purcell said.

Under current plans, the solar structure will go in an area of Corinna Township slated to be annexed for residential development. Local taxpayers have already spent an estimated $300,000 in sewer and other infrastructure improvements tied to the expected development. Moreover, the city stands to lose an estimated $275,000 in property taxes over the anticipated 20-year life span of the solar system.

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