When solar power threatens the trees

This certainly seems to miss the point of the benefit of renewable energy. Midwest Energy News says 11 acres of mature hardwood trees were cleared in Wright County to make way for a solar project.

“They just came through and cut them all down – they’re gone,” Buffalo Township clerk and treasurer Tom Kleist tells reporter Kevin Featherly. “We questioned afterwards why they did that. We really haven’t gotten a good response.”

The Aurora Solar Project is a $250 million project over 16 sites that should go on line later this year. Because it’s not a single site, local governments have no control over it; the state does.

The county board has slapped a solar moratorium on developers, but the builder of the the Wright County site says it won’t stop it.

“As a utility scale and state-permitted project, Aurora’s Lake Pulaski site in Wright County will not be impacted by the county’s emergency moratorium on solar projects,” the statement reads.

“EGP-NA aims to build longstanding relationships with the community, promoting open dialogue and transparency throughout the life of a project,” the statement continues. “As construction on the site begins, we will continue working closely with Wright County representatives to ensure the project complies with all permitting regulations.”

Kleist and Riley both assert that Buffalo Township is not generally opposed to solar development. However, they think there must be a better way to build installations without taking prime farmland out of production and clear-cutting trees.

“I think all of us have said that if you want to do solar, go right ahead and do it,” [Buffalo Township clerk and treasurer Tom] Kleist said. “Let’s just do it so it makes sense.”

The Legislature is considering legislation that would prohibit solar projects if more than 75 percent of the trees in an area larger than three acres would have to be cut down, Midwest Energy News says.