116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The smaller of two utility-scale solar energy projects being proposed in Linn County has formally applied for permission to build a 640-acre facility nearly 3 miles west of Coggon and supply enough electricity to meet the needs of over 16,000 homes on average.
Coggon Solar LLC, a partnership between Clenera and Central Iowa Power Cooperative, filed an application last Friday, the county announced Monday. The plan calls for generating 100 megawatts, if approved and built, for 35 years. Coggon Solar already has signed long-term leases with property owners to obtain the land required for the project, the application states. The land use now is farming.
The application notes electricity generated by the project would “serve the load within the (Central Iowa Power Cooperative) member system, including Linn County.” Additionally, Linn County would receive an estimated $4,750,000 in property tax revenue over the life of the project, according to the application.
In April, Idaho-based 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.
If approved, construction is expected to last a year, the application states, 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.
The project will use around 325,000 photovoltaic solar modules. The modules being used do not contain any hazardous materials, according to the application.
“Owing to the lack of hazardous materials in the modules, there is no possibility that the modules will leak such materials in the event of module damage, and as such there will be no damage or harm to the land, domestic animals, wildlife, flora, humans, the atmosphere or water resources drainage, runoff, etc.,” the application reads.
The application also points out that the modules are generally less reflective than windows or water features.
“Photovoltaic modules are non-glare and are designed to absorb rather than reflect the sunlight reaching the modules,” the application reads. “Hence, glare will not be an issue for the residents, travelers on local roads, or from airplanes above.”
The 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.
All solar panels, as well as other project materials, would be taken down and shipped for salvage at the end of the project’s 35-year life span, the application reads.
“100 percent of the aluminum, 95 percent of the glass and 85 percent of the silicon is considered recyclable or reusable,” the application reads. The land would be returned to agricultural use, it says.
“This is far different from residential or commercial development where the land is often owned in fee and there are no decommissioning requirements or surety,” the application reads. “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 application also states that several of the project’s underlying landowners have leased only a portion of their agricultural landholdings to the project. “They intend to continue to farm the balance of their land holdings,” the application reads.
Decommissioning would take a total of 12 months.
If built, the project will be operated remotely and primarily be unstaffed, though a maintenance employee or contractor would be on-site occasionally.
The application states that “it is expected there will be no adverse effect on local property values caused by the project,” since it would not produce noise, emit odors or create waste. The application cited property value research including from the University of Texas at Austin.
“While a majority of survey respondents estimated a value impact of zero, some estimated a negative impact associated with close distancing between the home and the facility and larger facility size,” the research states. “Regardless of these perceptions, geospatial analysis shows that relatively few homes are likely to be impacted.”
In addition to this solar farm near Coggon, NextEra is proposing a far larger solar project near the site of the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, a nuclear plant being decommissioned. The NextEra facility, which is yet to have filed a formal application, is proposed as a 690 megawatt solar farm across 3,500 aces.
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 for solar installation to a Renewable Energy Overlay Zoning District, according to the county.
Applicants 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. All meetings are public and each has public hearings, except for the technical review committee.
The first meetings of the technical review committee and planning and zoning commission for the Coggon Solar project are expected to occur in September or October, according to a county news release.
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