MANKATO — Long discussed and debated changes to Blue Earth County’s solar standards were approved by Blue Earth County commissioners Tuesday.
“The ordinance amendment clarifies the application process, creates setbacks from large solar energy systems, creates a threshold to review density of large solar energy systems, and updates standards regarding screening, fences, and decommissioning,” Mark Manderfeld, deputy director for property assessments, told commissioners.
Many counties have been reevaluating their solar ordinances after complaints began to grow about too many larger solar gardens being clustered near electric substations. Solar companies like to locate close to substations so they don’t have to run long electric lines from the solar array to the substation.
Some area counties put in temporary moratoriums on new solar gardens while they review ordinances.
“This has been a testament to compromise,” said board chair Vance Stuehrenberg. “Some wanted a lot more, some wanted a lot less.”
The changes have been debated since the Planning Commission and commissioners first began working on them last September.
“It’s been a long process. It’s good to get it done,” said Commissioner Kip Bruender.
Residents near larger arrays testified about electrical interference with radio and television signals, setbacks between solar sites, setbacks to residential dwellings, line of site impairment, lighting and screening.
The existing ordinance had no setback to a dwelling. The proposed amendment would require a 500-foot setback from a dwelling, other than one owned by the applicant.
The new ordinance will require a review of screening standards when a solar project is within a certain distance of an existing solar site.
Lighting must be directed away from adjoining properties.
For proposed large solar arrays within 2,500 feet of an existing array, the county will review density in the area and could add additional conditions on a project.