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County process for Duane Arnold Solar projects begins
If all is approved, the company plans to begin operation by the end of 2024.
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County’s review process for a pair of utility-scale solar projects near Palo has begun.
The process kicked off Thursday with a meeting of the county’s technical review committee, which will discuss the project and ask questions of developer NextEra.
The projects in question, Duane Arnold Solar I and II, would generate up to 200 megawatts combined.
Duane Arnold Solar I would use 316 acres on an 857-acre area to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 mw.
The larger Duane Arnold Solar II would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre area, generating up to 150 mw. It would also have a 75-mw, four-hour battery energy storage facility.
While the technical review committee, made up of Linn County staffers, doesn’t provide public comment or make recommendations, members ask questions of a developer's project application in preparation for it to go before the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
No date has been set for the Planning and Zoning meeting, but it will take place at the Palo Community Center, 2800 Hollenbeck Road, in Palo.
Linn County Planning and Development Director Charlie Nichols said a date will be announced soon, and will take place in late June or July.
It’s a longer turnaround of meetings than was seen during the previous Clenera solar project process.
“There’s a couple of things leading to a longer time between meetings,” Nichols told The Gazette on Thursday. “The (Palo) community center is busier than the fairgrounds and our Planning and Zoning Committee members also have more scheduling conflicts which I think is due to the time of year. Our department also doesn’t have as much time to focus on a single project because summer is our busy season so our turnaround time is a bit longer.”
At that meeting, public comment takes place and the Planning and Zoning Commission votes to either recommend approval or denial of a project. County supervisors have the final say whether a project proceeds.
While the process is identical to Coggon-based Clenera solar project’s process that played out over the last year and ended in the Supervisors’ 2-1 approval, Nichols said he feels NextEra is already further along than Clenera was at this point.
“They took all the feedback and requests made of Clenera and incorporated it into their application submittal and their application is very robust,” Nichols said.
The Florida-based NextEra submitted its application to the county in February for the two-phase project. If all is approved, the company plans to begin operation by the end of 2024.
The company, which has operated in Iowa since 1999, previously said it plans to invest $800 million in the projects, including $50 million paid to local landowners over the project’s 30-year life span. NextEra’s land-leasing phase was completed last year after the company promised in public meetings not to use eminent domain to acquire the land.
Last November, Alliant Energy filed a proposal to the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the project from NextEra and further develop it into the state’s largest solar and battery storage facility.
If everything is approved, NextEra would develop and construct the solar facility, but Alliant would own and operate it. The Utilities Board’s decision on that is expected later this year.
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