Supervisors Continue Discussion on Solar Energy | News, Sports, Jobs

by Joseph Schany

The conversation regarding the possibility of solar energy in Palo Alto County continued Tuesday morning during the regular session meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Brad Quigley, a supervisor from Louisa County in southeast Iowa, contacted the Board to provide valuable first-hand knowledge and insight in the ongoing solar discussion.

Quigley helped oversee the installation of Iowa’s largest solar energy plant in Wapello, which began operating on Jan. 2, 2021. The Wapello Solar Project generates a projected 215,000 MW-h and is expected to create more than $20 million in county economic benefits over the life of the project.

“Louisa County has around 11,200 people,” said Quigley, “and we are a farming community. Our [solar plant] is 850 acres and I think it has 350,000 panels. It provides power for 18,000 homes and covers all of our rural areas.”

According to Quigley, the overall experience of building the solar project was a pleasant one, from land-leasing to construction and installation.

“We’ve had no problems at all,” said Quigley. “[The process] was very clean and very organized, and it was very quick and thorough. We are very proud of our solar field.”

Quigley discussed Louisa County’s own experiences when preparing for solar, pointing out that months were spent building an ordinance to satisfy

county residents and leadership. Much like Palo Alto County, Quigley and the county questioned others looking into and building similar projects to find answers.

“I think there are a lot of things you can work through if you put provisions in your ordinances to protect you in the future,” said Quigley. “Doing your due diligence and looking into it, talking to other communities and other states, that is the most important. That’s what we did.”

After reviewing some of the specifics in Louisa County’s ordinance, Board Chair Linus Solberg asked, “Do you have much farm tile down there? We have the most in the state of Iowa.”

“We have tile,” responded Quigley. “We have provisions in [our ordinance] about tiling. It recognizes if something is hit and has to be repaired. That’s something maybe [Palo Alto County] needs to pay a little more attention to since you have so much tile, but we do cover that in our ordinance.”

Quigley noted the company was very accommodating, adding, “We had no complaints.”

Another important element in Quigley’s county ordinance was intended for landowners leasing their farmland for solar.

“I believe they did a 25-year lease for solar,” he said, “so we put in our ordinance that in the 25 years, if they don’t want to renew it, we can put the land back to farming stability.”

Read the full article in The Democrat.