By Alice Duschanek-Myers
Geronimo Energy of Edina plans to construct and manage up to 31 solar facilities adjacent to Xcel Energy’s transmission and distribution substations in Xcel’s upper Midwest service area, which includes 18 counties in Minnesota. Geronimo is seeking community support and negotiating to secure sites for the facilities. Each of the facilities will supply from two to ten megawatts (MW) of electrical power. Local prospective sites include Dodge Center (6.5MW), Pine Island (2.5 MW), and Zumbrota (3.5 MW).
Geronimo has requested letters of support from the cities of Pine Island and Zumbrota. The Pine Island City Council has not considered the request on its agenda. The request died for lack of a motion before the Zumbrota City Council (see story this week).
In 2010, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission determined that Xcel Energy had a demand for 150 MW of capacity by 2017. The demand is projected to grow to up to 500 MW of capacity by 2019. Xcel also has an obligation to meet Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator’s (MISO) planning reserve sharing pool expectations.
On April 15, 2013, Geronimo filed a distributed solar energy proposal with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to provide up to 100 MW of AC solar energy as a portion of Xcel Energy’s demand for customer and capacity needs between 2017 and 2019.
The 100 MW project would provide Xcel Energy with 72 MW of capacity to meet its obligations at peak demand. The solar project would offer customers economical energy over time and help Xcel to meet federal and state renewable energy standards. It would create 500 temporary construction jobs and ten permanent jobs at the selected sites.
The sites will be selected based on the availability of land, impact on the environment, and proximity to existing Xcel and MISO transmission substations.
In the proposal, the facilities could be functional by December 2016, and provide a portion of the energy necessary to meet Xcel’s summer peak demand in 2017. It can take three years to develop a project to operation.
There are no air emissions in the production of solar energy, including carbon dioxide. This is a clean energy project. There is low environmental impact. If the facilities are dismantled after a life of 45-50 years, the land used can be turned back to the original use.
Geronimo’s request dies for a lack of motion in Zumbrota
By Tara Chapa
ZUMBROTA – A request to provide a letter of support for Geronimo Energy died for lack of a motion at the November 21 Zumbrota City Council meeting. The council cited a lack of research time available to them regarding a proposed solar energy project; however, they would like to hold a public hearing for Zumbrota residents to voice their concerns.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has begun a request for proposals process to select from a group of five proposals to supply Xcel Energy with 500 megawatts of electricity by 2019. The PUC can choose one or a combination of the proposals to meet the requirement.
Geronimo Energy’s project is a 100-megawatt (MW) solar project, of which Zumbrota would site about 3.5 MW. The area of interest is Brad Nord’s property across Highway 52 in the new industrial area set up by the construction of the new concrete road (County 168). The site is in Minneola Township adjacent to the city limits and Highway 52. The city has already constructed new sewer and water lines in this area to develop this into industrial activity.
Geronimo Energy, based in Edina, has one of the proposals being considered for the project. The company was founded by Noel Rahn, a lifelong farmer who wanted to develop a wind farm on his own land. In developing the Odin Wind Farm, he realized all the benefits wind energy bring to rural communities. According to Geronimo’s website, their current pipeline of nearly 3,000 megawatts would offset the emissions of: 1,400,000 passenger vehicles, 40,000 rail cars of coal, 16,000,000 barrels of oil, 900,000 houses, and 160,000 miles of jumbo jet flights.
Geronimo has a partnership with Enel Green Power (EGP), the leading producer of renewable energy in the world. EGP has over 600 plants worldwide.
Barb Stussy, a resident of Minneola Township, was present at the council meeting and presented a list of questions about the proposed Geronimo project. Some of her questions were the following:
• Will the solar farm project be converted to a wind farm project?
• Are building permits needed?
• Are conditional use permits needed?
• Are meteorological towers needed?
• What is the distance between the transmission facilities to connect the solar facilities to the transmission grid of the Zumbrota site?
• Are any wetlands affected?
• How close will the nearest solar array be to homes in that area?
• How will this proposed project impact future growth in the area adjacent to the project?
• How much increased traffic will this project create and for how long?
• What is the removal process once Geronimo determines the solar farm is past its useful life?
• Less than two miles to the north of this proposed project is a bald eagle’s nest along Highway 52. Geronimo’s distributed solar energy proposal states in a section on wildlife that “the initial screening identified a number of environmentally sensitive areas in or near many of the energy generation zones.” Does the Zumbrota solar project (this specific area) have “environmentally sensitive areas”?
• Stussy said that Geronimo Energy is a foreign–owned company. In November 2009, Enel Green Power announced that its subsidiary Enel North American Inc. had a signed agreement resulting in an equity investment and strategic partnership with Geronimo Wind Energy, LLC. Enel Green Power is the renewable power company of Enel S.p.A. aimed at developing and operating power generation from renewable sources in Italy and around the world. Do we want our government subsidy money going to a foreign county?
City Administrator Neil Jensen explained in a memo to the city council that industrial property generally produces greater tax values and creates jobs, unlike residential development. This project is situated on 30 acres and is estimated to create $6,000 in production tax revenue. This is extremely low tax revenue for 30 acres of prime industrial land.
A representative of Geronimo presented the proposed development plan to the Economic Development Authority members at the EDA meeting on November 20.