116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County’s review process of a 640-acre solar energy project near Coggon that is drawing opposition from many of its would-be neighbors began Monday with a technical analysis.
The proposed facility 3 miles west of Coggon is a partnership between Idaho-based Clenera and Central Iowa Power Cooperative named Coggon Solar LLC.
The county’s technical review committee met Monday to discuss the project and ask questions of project developer Clenera. Public comment on the project will come soon: The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Linn County Fairgrounds in nearby Central City to discuss the project.
The technical review committee also doesn’t provide recommendations. The committee reviews current plans in preparation for the commission meeting and for later Linn County Board of Supervisors meetings.
Coggon Solar Project
The proposed facility, a 640-acre project three miles west of Coggon, is a partnership between Idaho-based Clenera and Central Iowa Power Cooperative named Coggon Solar LLC.
Source: Linn County
On Monday, county staffers asked questions of Clenera Director of Development Tom Fitzgerald and reiterated the county requirements for agricultural mitigation strategies and the vegetative site plan for the project.
Coggon Solar LLC filed its application for the project in July. The plan calls for generating 100 megawatts, if approved and built, for 35 years on the property located south of Linn-Delaware Road, north of Hutchinson Road, west of Quality Road and east of Sutton Road in rural Linn County.
In April, Clenera and CIPCO announced its execution of a power purchase agreement for Coggon Solar. The solar farm near Coggon is planned to be the second solar agreement with Clenera, after the completion of another 100-megawatt project in Louisa County in southeast Iowa.
Coggon Solar already has signed long-term leases with property owners to obtain the land required for the project, the application states. The land currently is used for farming.
If ultimately approved, construction is expected to last a year and would aim to begin in the first quarter of 2022.
Construction would require a monthly average of 100 to 200 employees, according to the application, and could peak at about 300 workers. If built, the project would be operated remotely and primarily not be staffed, though a maintenance employee or contractor would be on-site occasionally.
Separate from this solar farm near Coggon, NextEra is proposing a far larger solar project near the former site of the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo. The NextEra facility, which is yet to file a formal application, is proposed as a 690 megawatt solar farm across 3,500 acres.
Residents of both Coggon and Palo have voiced concerns at public meetings in the past about the large-scale projects gobbling up farmland, not having adequate setbacks from other property and possible negative effects on wildlife.
During Monday’s meeting, Linn County Planning and Development Director Charlie Nichols said the county has requested a minimum setback of 300 feet from all other properties with residences on them, including a property that has yet to have a house built on it.
“Though there still is work to do before planning and zoning and supervisors, we are in a good place review-wise,” Nichols said. “We will produce a staff report for the public to read on Nov. 23, ahead of the planning and zoning meeting.”
Property owner Greg Bickal — the owner of Bickal Koi Farm — said he is getting ready to build a new house on the land mentioned during Monday’s meeting.
“We were going to build sooner but we’ve put off our plans to see how this solar farm will be,” Bickal, 53, said. Bickal said he isn’t against solar power but doesn’t think Coggon is the right place for a project of this size.
“Cornfields are just as important to me as oceanfront property,” he said of his Coggon Road property. “This is my retirement property and I’ve dreamed of this and now I’m going to be surrounded by solar panels on three sides.”
Coggon Solar LLC’s application also includes the project’s eventual decommissioning plan, which is required for an application to be considered by the county and the Iowa Utilities Board.
The plan states that all solar panels and other project materials would be taken down and shipped for salvage at the end of the project’s lifespan. The plan also states that the use of the site for solar production will “allow soil nutrient regeneration to occur resulting in more fertile soils once returned to agricultural production.”
The review process for large-scale solar projects in Linn County is the same for all applicants. A utility-scale solar project requires an application to rezone the area to be used to a Renewable Energy Overlay Zoning District, according to the county’s website. Any applicant must undergo a review by the county’s technical review committee, the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as three considerations by the Linn County Board of Supervisors.
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