116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
PALO — The first of three Linn County Board of Supervisors meetings that was supposed to provide a public forum on a proposed solar project was canceled before it could start on Monday. County officials said an oversight on the legal notice publication about the meeting necessitated the cancellation. No new meeting date has been announced.
The dozens of residents and representatives of developer NextEra who showed up for the meeting were not informed of the cancellation until around 6:10 p.m. The meeting was supposed to begin at 6.
While many were expecting to sit through an hourslong meeting, Supervisor Ben Rogers started the meeting by declaring there would be no meeting.
“We were just notified of this,” Rogers said. “This is an embarrassing oversight. We know this is an issue the community has been discussing and looking for direction on next steps. I'm incredibly sorry we can't hold a meeting this evening. We will make sure every effort is taken to communicate when the next meetings will be.”
The error? Not getting the correct language in the county paper of record, which is The Gazette.
“Obviously notice went out and this would be considered constructive notice, but by law, we have to publish specific language in The Gazette, including the day, and we did not get that notice in the paper,” Linn County Planning Director Charlie Nichols told The Gazette. “I’m not sure why it slipped through the cracks and I’m going to look into it. To be prudent, we thought we should start the process over and be correct.”
Rogers told The Gazette that the supervisors found out about the publication error about 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin.
“There were questions about the proof of publication from staff,” Rogers said. “And we hadn’t published it. We don’t know if we will be able to come back and do this next Monday yet either. It will depend on when we can get that in the paper.”
The supervisors were set to vote on developer NextEra’s Duane Arnold Solar projects near Palo. The official vote would’ve been the first of three votes needed to rezone the area from agricultural to agricultural with a solar overlay, allowing for the project to be built. The two subsequent meetings were planned for Aug. 24 and 29.
“We’re going to continue to work with the project and we will go through this process,” NextEra representative Megan Murphy Salyer said. “It’s an important process to uphold. We’re being patient and working through it.”
Last month, the Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the zoning change, which would allow for the project to be built.
The Duane Arnold Solar I project proposes to use 316 acres of an 857-acre area to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy.
The Duane Arnold Solar II project would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre area to place solar arrays capable of generating up to 150 MW. It would also include a 75-MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility. The battery energy storage system will have about 96 20 x 8-foot containers that will house 7,040 lithium-ion battery modules.
While NextEra will develop the project, Alliant Energy filed a proposal with the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the large-scale solar project from NextEra and further develop it into the state’s largest solar and battery storage facility, if that plan receives approval.
NextEra representatives have said they plan to have the Palo projects operational by December 2024. The estimated start of construction is the first quarter of 2023, if the projects are approved.
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