Linn Co. updates rules for utility-scale solar projects

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - There are now more rules companies must follow to build large solar projects in Linn County.

Wednesday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt changes to the ordinance governing utility-scale solar projects. These changes include things like ensuring solar panels are tall enough to let plants grow beneath them, requiring them to be even further from homes, and even restricting how much noise solar farms can make. 

“It is designed to...just make it better for the people that live out there,” said Linn County Supervisor Louis Zumbach.

The changes come after solar has proved controversial in the county.

In January 2022, the Board of Supervisors approved a solar project in Coggon, and then in September that year, they rezoned land in Palo for a project there. These decisions came only after lots of push back.

The Board of Supervisors placed a moratorium on accepting solar projects so officials could look at the rules surrounding how they progress.

Just last month, these changes were presented at a Planning and Zoning Meeting and this time.. the pushback was in the opposite direction with residents worried too many restrictions would put a stop to solar in the county.

Now that the ordinance has been updated, Zumbach said, “There’s really nothing in it that is a poison pill.”

“It may add some low-level costs for the companies that are doing it, but I don’t think it adds major cost. I don’t think it makes it impossible by any means,” said Zumbach.

Zumbach voted for the ordinance changes Wednesday, but was the one “no” vote for a scorecard that incentivizes changes not required in the ordinance.

TV9 asked if renewable energy projects were something leaders wanted to see in continue to come to Linn County..

“I think all three [members of the Board of Supervisors] are fine with renewable energy. I think we look at it differently,” said Zumbach.