The Superior School Board is poised to take action Monday, Aug. 12, on a proposal to donate land for a community solar garden.
Superior Water, Light & Power is seeking to partner with the district to lease an approximately 5-acre parcel of land between Northern Lights Elementary School and North 28th Street for a 250-kilowatt solar array. The project, about six times the size of Minnesota Power’s community solar garden on Rice Lake Road, would cover the annual energy requirements for approximately 45 homes based on average residential usage.
The board tabled the proposed 25-year lease last month, but it was brought back at the July 5 Committee of the Whole meeting for consideration.
The wooded lot near the Northern Lights sign is not currently being used by the district, but the proposal would involve cutting down trees for site development and use some of the district’s banked wetland mitigation credits.
Board members said they saw the need for renewable energy in the area, but were concerned about the tree loss.
“I struggle with green energy, but we’re cutting down the forest,” Board President Len Albrecht said.
“I really do think one of the concerns will be the trees,” District Administrator Amy Starzecki said.
She asked what benefits the district would receive from the partnership. Representatives from SWL&P said the array could be used for educational purposes and, when it comes down in 25 years, the district would benefit from improvements made to the green space. According to Starzecki, the parcel has drainage issues.
Rob Sandstrom, president of SWL&P, said the utility could also look into adding a pollinator habitat to the site.
Project coordinator Shawna Grangruth said the utility is trying to move quickly on the project to make the most of available solar tax credits. At the current rate, the project would net a 30% tax credit, but that would drop 3% in a year and fall steadily after that.
“The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be for customers to jump in,” Grangruth said.
The Superior School Board will meet at 5 p.m. at the district administration building, 3025 Tower Ave. Following a closed session, the board will reconvene to open session at 6 p.m.