Neighbors want more information about solar farm project

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 8:17 PM CDT
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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - A potential 3500-acre solar farm project has people in Linn County complaining about a lack of transparency and information.

In March, Next Era Energy announced its plans to re-purpose the Duane Arnold Nuclear power plant in Palo into a large solar farm. The project, the company said, will produce 690 megawatts of energy along with 300 construction jobs. This will come from three different locations in Linn County.

The first location is expected to be 245 acres and expected to be complete in November 2023. The other two locations are both over 1,000 acres and expected to be completed in August 2023. But, the location of those three projects hasn’t been decided yet. Next Era Energy doesn’t own the land to build those projects either. So, it has begun talking to people about leasing their land. But, some homeowners are scared the company might begin to kick them off.

Charlene Allaire, who lives in Toddsville, is one of those homeowners. She said she’s very confused about the process because she hasn’t received any information about the project.

Allaire, who lives in a house that’s been in her family for generations, said she first learned about the project from a community Facebook Group.

“I’m in the dark,” she said. “And so if I am in the dark, there’s a lot of neighbors who are out here in the dark, too.”

Allaire is part of a Facebook page called Not in our Backyards!, which has about 400 members. The page has served as a hub for people to talk about their grievances with the project. Sara Alden, who is also a member, has created a petition to stop the project from happening. completely.

One of their main concern is the lack of information people have received from the company about the project. And a letter, which was mailed to everyone in the potential area of the project, told residents the company would be trying to get a waiver to ignore an in-person meeting required by state law. Next Era Energy, in a filing to the Iowa Utilities Board, cited COVID-19 restrictions for the reason to skip the meeting.

Allaire, who lives in the potential area, hasn’t received her letter yet. She said that only adds to her confusion and concern about the project.

Although Next Era Energy is located in Florida, Kimberly Dickey, who is the project developer, is based in Linn County. She said the company has been doing everything it can to communicate with people who already live in the area.

She said the group has its own website, its own Facebook page where people can ask questions and plans on opening an office in Palo next week to answer people’s questions.

Dickey said the project is still in its early stages, so the information it can give out is limited, but expects to have more information when it goes through the permitting process. Next Era plans for that to happen in Summer 2021.

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