State approves 1,500+ acre solar farm for Dodge County

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(ABC 6 News) – Dodge County is about to be home to Minnesota’s 2nd largest solar project, helping the area meet the state’s new requirement to have 100% carbon-free energy by 2040.

The Byron Solar Project will be more than 1,500 acres of farmland expected to provide enough power for 30,000 homes. It will be off Highway 14 and County Road 15 between Byron and Kasson.

The farm itself sits in Dodge County, but the facility connects to Byron’s substation — just over the border in Olmsted County.

Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission gave the green light earlier this month and calls it a win for the state, bringing utility companies closer to being completely carbon-free.

“We knew that this project was needed to make the standards and goals for the area and simply to provide clean, renewable and very inexpensive energy,” said Commissioner John Tuma from the Public Utilities Commission.

However, the massive project is leaving some local governments feeling like they have little control over what goes on in their own backyard. The sheer size of the project means that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission takes over regulatory control.

“It does not make sense that just because it’s a bigger project, the community in which the facility is being installed does not have the ability to place conditions on it. We are only allowed to offer suggestions,” said Dodge County Director of Environmental Services Lauren Cornelius during a utilities commission meeting.

County and township officials spoke out in a meeting Thursday and asked for better communication.

“With all due respect I think it will be the County that will be receiving all of the calls and complaints from the community members,” Cornelius continued.

Construction is slated to begin in 2024, with the solar farm starting operations in 2025.