Marshall Solar argues for approval of site permit for 62-MW Minnesota project

Marshall Solar LLC on Nov. 16 filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission its proposed findings of fact, which if accepted by the commission would allow approval of a March 4 site permit application to construct a 62.25-MW solar facility to be located four miles east of Marshall, Minnesota.

On May 11, the Minnesota commission found that the application was substantially complete and authorized the review of the application under the alternative permitting process. on Sept. 30, the state Department of Commerce filed an environmental assessment finding no major adverse effects from the project. On Oct. 2, Marshall Solar filed the testimony of four expert witnesses demonstrating, among other things, that there is no feasible or prudent alternative to Marshall Solar’s temporary use of prime farmland, and that Marshall Solar will care for the land so it can be returned to agricultural use after the useful life of the project. Public hearings were held on Oct. 20 and 21.

On Nov. 3, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources filed comments stating that it has been working with Marshall Solar to identify seed mixes that would, among other things, benefit the soil. On Nov. 4, Marshall Solar filed a draft Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plan (AIMP) further demonstrating its commitment to care for the prime farmland so it can be returned to agricultural use after the decommissioning of the project.

Said the Nov. 16 proposed findings from the company: “The record is clear that there is no feasible or prudent alternative that does not also use prime farmland. The record is equally clear that the Project’s use of prime farmland is not justified on economic considerations alone. Further, contrary to comments at the public hearing and by the Objecting Families, Commission precedent is clear that wind or other generating resources are not an alternative to solar and that any solar alternative must be of a similar size to the proposed Project. Marshall Solar has also demonstrated that it meets the three requirements for a variance of under Minn. R. 7829.3200, and, therefore, in the event the Commission decides not to affirmatively find that Marshall Solar has demonstrated that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the Project’s use of prime farmland, the Commission should grant a variance to Minn. R. 7850.4400.”

The company noted that its project was a winner in a Northern States Power (NSP) solar resource Request for Proposals. Only three solar projects were selected, one of which was Marshall Solar. After selection of the project, Marshall Solar and NSP negotiated and executed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which included, among other requirements, a requirement that the project deliver its output to NSP’s Lyon County Substation. On March 24 of this year, the commission approved the PPA.

Northern States Power is a unit of Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL). Marshall Solar is a wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which is a unit of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.