Zoning Permit Application Submitted for Community Solar Garden in City of Lafayette

By Robert Lawson





The City of Lafayette is considering a zoning application recently submitted to the city for approval and adoption. Other nearby communities such as Saint Peter, Mankato and others have adopted similar programs, which allows customers to essentially lease a portion of the power and qualify for rebates under available state program requirements. 

A company called Development Services, Inc. (DSI) is requesting to operate a 367 Kilowatt (KW) AC community solar project on 3.5 acres of land near adjacent Hwy. 15. They would like to begin construction in fall 2023. Laura Brown, Director of the Renewable Energy Development for DSI said the project will provide clean energy to the community. 

“The enclosed forms and materials address the questions and requested details from the City of Lafayette conditional use standards,” Brown said in the request. “The solar installation is a clean, efficient means of power production with few moving parts and minimal maintenance that creates no noise, dust, runoff or nuisance factors associated with other forms of power production.”

DSI develops solar garden projects that are part of the state’s solar garden program, which was established in 2013. The developers will sell the electricity to customers. The company claims that as many as 75 percent of homes and businesses aren’t able to install solar on their property. Renewable energy produced by the solar garden will be sent directly to the Xcel utility grid and their customers that participate in the program will receive monthly discounts on their electricity bill. Subscribers to the solar garden will be able to receive the savings for up to 25 years, which is the length of DSI’s power facility agreement with Xcel. 

The proposed solar garden project would be constructed on a property in Nicollet County, located north of 350th Street, east of MN-15 and west of 551st Avenue. The total parcel area is approximately 55 acres. The exact location is Section 1, of Township 111, Range 30. The project will occupy 3.5 acres on the southeastern portion of the site. The site is currently being used for agriculture. There is currently an operational solar array to the west of the area. 

According to the proposal from DSI, the project site will be vegetated with a short growth native species and a pollinator friendly mix after the solar panels are in place. The array will have an 8-foot-tall deer knot security fence and will not use any barbwire. Ongoing operations will require seasonal and as-needed site visits for grounds maintenance and equipment inspections. It will take about three years for vegetation to achieve optimal growth level and will require maintenance and weeding. 


A new entrance road on the north side of 350th street is planned for construction to provide direct access to the solar array. Light duty service vehicles will use the 12-foot-wide service road. This is necessary for routine or as-needed maintenance and equipment inspections. The solar array itself will be contained within an area protected by an 8-foot deer-style wire fence with wooden posts. The solar array will consist of rows of panels on a ground mounted single axis tracking system separated by 15-foot-wide lanes. Almost 1300 385-watt panels will connect to 8 - 55 KVA smart inverters in the system.  Smart inverters are then connected to a meter that measures the amount of electrical energy produced. The electrical energy will then be distributed directly to the public utility grid at interconnection on the north side of 350th Street. A typical row of panels will consist of 72 strings of 18 modules. The single axis tracker panels and equipment will have a maximum height of 15 feet. The angle of the solar panels will change throughout the day as the panels follow the Sun. The highest degree of tilt that a tracker panel would reach is 52 degrees. The photovoltaic systems will comply with the Minnesota State Electric Code and National Electric Code.

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