116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — NextEra has officially submitted its application to Linn County for its Duane Arnold Solar project in Palo.
The Florida-based company submitted its application to the county on Thursday for the two-phase project respectively called Duane Arnold Solar I and II. The county published the applications on its website Friday.
The county process for this project will be the same as it was for the Clenera Coggon Solar project. It will have to go through a technical review committee meeting, a planning and zoning meeting and three Board of Supervisors readings. Ultimately, the supervisors have the final say on whether a project passes on the county level.
Last month, the supervisors OK’d the smaller and different Coggon Solar project on a 2-1 vote.
NextEra’s application comes after the supervisors voted down a solar moratorium for a second time with a 2-1 vote as well.
Duane Arnold Solar I would use 316 acres of an 857-acre area to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy.
Duane Arnold Solar II would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre area to place solar arrays capable of generating up to 150 MW as well as a 75-MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility.
If approved by the county and state, the project would begin operation by the end of 2024.
NextEra, which has operated in Iowa since 1999, said in June it plans to invest $800 million in the solar project, including $50 million paid to landowners over the project’s 30-year life span.
The company’s land leasing phase was nearly complete in June, Project Director Kimberly Dickey said. She has previously said NextEra would not use eminent domain to acquire the land.
In November, Alliant Energy filed a proposal to the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the large-scale solar project from NextEra and further develop the project into the state’s largest solar and battery storage facility.
If everything is approved, the plan would be for NextEra to develop and construct the project, but once operational, Alliant would own and operate the project.
The Utilities Board’s decision on the Palo project is expected in the second half of 2022, Alliant said.
Alliant, headquartered in Madison, Wis., serves nearly 977,000 electric customers and 420,000 natural gas customers in Iowa and Wisconsin. The company already has several solar projects and an energy storage pilot project in Decorah.
By locating the project at the former Duane Arnold site, Alliant can use power transmission infrastructure already there, the company said.
Once the Palo projects are operational, combined with Alliant Energy’s existing 1,300 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa, nearly 50 percent of the company’s total resource mix in the state will be from renewable resources, the company said.
Alliant is on pace to meet this milestone by 2025. The company wants to be at net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Now that the company has submitted an application, it would typically first go before the county’s technical review committee on the first Thursday of March. No decision on the project is made at the meeting. Currently, no meeting is set, according to the county.
The application includes site plans as well as a decommissioning plan, economic and land-use analysis, vegetation management plan, agricultural impact mitigation plan, setback analysis and a screening plan along with other documents.
What’s happening in the Legislature
Earlier this month, Iowa lawmakers advanced a bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee that would place restrictions on where industrial-scale solar projects can go.
If ultimately passed, the bill, proposed by State Sen. Dan Zumbach., R-Ryan, would limit that solar projects be installed on “less productive” farmland, according to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Corn Suitability Rating 2 index, which rates soil productivity. Solar projects would only be allowed on soil with a corn suitability rating of 65 or lower.
Under the bill, projects would also have to be half a mile away from other solar projects and have setbacks of 1,250 feet from the nearest neighboring landowners.
Groups including the Iowa Environmental Council and the Sierra Club as well as various labor unions and companies NextEra and MidAmerican are registered as lobbyists against the bill while the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is registered for it.
The Iowa Utilities Board and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association are currently undecided.
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