More solar blooming on Mankato's north side

·3 min read

Jul. 8—MANKATO — A pair of large solar arrays are about to pop up on the north side of Mankato and just outside city limits in Lime Township, where a yearlong solar moratorium ended this spring.

On Mankato's northern edge, Impact Power Solutions is seeking a 35-year permit for a 1-megawatt solar array on land being purchased from the city at the intersection of Industrial Road and Sakatah Drive. Located just west of the BMX track, the parcel is adjacent to a large existing solar array to the north.

The array will consist of about 3,250 solar panels on a 6.8-acre parcel that's in close proximity to existing electrical distribution lines, according to the Roseville-based solar developer.

Plans call for construction, which takes about three months, to occur sometime between April and December of next year, according to documents filed with the city.

About two miles to the northeast, US Solar is seeking a permit from Lime Township for a 1-megawatt array just west of Highway 22 at the intersection of Jayhawk Road.

Nearly 2,600 solar panels would be erected on 7.2 acres owned by David and Judy Wachal and would be permitted for up to 40 years.

"Together, we will ensure that this solar garden will operate safely and efficiently over its lifespan, while providing environmental, financial and social benefits to the surrounding area," wrote Jayhawk project developer Luke Gildemeister in a cover letter with the permit application.

The application suggested that the project will provide environmental benefits beyond producing enough clean electricity to power about 225 homes.

"The area underneath the modules and between the rows will be transformed into a diverse mix of pollinator-friendly, low-lying, deep-rooted plants. This enhances soil, water and air quality. A study has shown that these seed mixes reduce stormwater runoff by 23% (following a 2.9-inch rain)."

Construction is expected to be completed by summer of 2023.

Lime Township placed a hold on new projects after a spate of new arrays and requested arrays in the winter of 2022-21.

"I'm a believer in solar, but I'm not a believer in solar on every single parcel in every single place," Township Supervisor Rick Resch said at a March 2021 meeting of the Mankato Planning Commission, which also serves as the Lime Township Planning Commission. "So I just want to pause for real thinking and consideration of — does this fit the property?"

Impact Power Solutions gained approval of a trio of 1-megawatt community solar gardens in Lime Township just prior to the moratorium taking effect. Now expired, the moratorium gave the township a chance to review and amend its rules for solar arrays.

In Mankato, the former Lime Valley industrial park on the north side has transformed into a solar park with nearly 80 acres of vacant land sold to a series of community solar garden developments in the past half-dozen years.

The community solar garden concept was created by a 2013 Minnesota law to allow individuals and organizations to support solar energy even if they don't have the property or financing to install photovoltaic panels on their own.

Under the law, private firms develop solar arrays but are required to sell subscriptions to individuals, local governments and organizations. Xcel Energy, in turn, is required to purchase the electricity produced by the arrays and reimburse subscribers through discounts on their utility bills.