116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County on Wednesday adopted a moratorium on utility-scale solar projects that will last at least through the end of this year.
The moratorium the supervisors approved at its third and final reading extends through Dec. 31, with the opportunity to extend it in three-month increments, up to a full year.
Supervisor Ben Rogers said that while the county is taking a pause to look at and improve its industrial solar ordinance, it’s not a pursuit at perfection.
“We do have a good ordinance, but we don't have one that includes battery electric storage systems,” Rogers said. “I’d like to see a working definition of what ‘done’ looks like. We need to know where we're heading and know what ‘done’ is instead of trying to make this perfect.”
Supervisors Stacey Walker and Louie Zumbach agreed and said that no matter what, 100 percent of Linn County’s residents will not be happy with the final product.
“We’re never going to get to a point where every interest is going to be satisfied,” Walker said. “Everyone is going to have some heartburn, and I challenge everyone to accept that fact. If there’s an expectation that everyone at the end of this process will go home happy, that’s not going to happen.”
“It’s not going to be perfect,” Zumbach said. “But I look forward to an ordinance with far less people against and far more for it. I think we're all naive if we think we will have that done by the holidays.”
Initially, the proposed moratorium would have been in effect for up to 12 months or less if the code governing industrial solar installations in the county was updated before then.
County Planning and Development Director Charlie Nichols said he doesn’t think 12 months will be needed but that five months is likely the fastest the ordinance can be updated.
The county’s planning and development department will create review committees to look at specific areas of the renewable energy code, including setbacks, vegetation, screening, agrivoltaics and battery energy storage systems.
The moratorium will not affect the large, already-approved solar projects in Palo and Coggon, which will continue, but applications for new projects will not be considered until the pause is over.
The county said a three-month moratorium structure will allow check-ins on progress. The Dec. 31 deadline also would allow the current Board of Supervisors to decide on an extension before a new board member is sworn in January after the November elections. Walker is not seeking re-election.
County staffers have twice recommended moratoriums in the past, but those proposals were voted down, 2-1, with only Zumbach in favor.
The supervisors have approved three utility-scale solar projects this year — one near Coggon and two related ones near the decommissioned Duane Arnold Energy Center nuclear plant. The vote for each project was 2-1, with Zumbach opposed.
Progress on the 640-acre solar farm near Coggon is on hold while a court resolves a lawsuit brought against the supervisors by a family that lives nearby. The date for that trial is not set but is likely to happen this fall.
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