- Xcel Energy’s $100 million, 62 MW Marshall Solar project faces controversy as developer NextEra Energy Resources, the biggest wind and solar developer in the U.S., begins working toward a permit from state regulators to build.
- The project, part of Xcel’s drive to meet Minnesota’s 1.5% solar by 2020 mandate, has raised concerns among local residents about how it will affect land values. Their concerns seem accentuated by the fact that the project’s over-50-MW size shifts decisions about the project from county and township officials to state regulators.
- The 500 acre site on recovered southwestern Minnesota farmland which will host 200,000 to 275,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels was selected for its proximity to Xcel’s transmission system and a local substation.
Controversy was stepped up by a local print outlet's editorial describing the 2014 solar mandate's shift of regulatory authority to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission as an effort to ignore “the facts about the inefficacy of solar power.” The editorial asserted that “if loss of local control, decreased property values, increased cost of electricity or future cleanup issues of a 500-acre industrial site is a concern, then this project is a concern.”
NextEra will soon meet with locals to describe the protections it will put in place and to explain that Marshall Solar will bring $40,000 in property taxes and $120,000 in production taxes to the area annually for the 25 year term of the Xcel Energy power purchase agreement.
Local residents’ resentment of a project over which they have no control is common. Where a project is sited responsibly, they typically realize the benefits, it is usually built, and the resentment passes; where siting is insensitive to local concerns, the project often fails to get approval.