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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

MN landowners warming up to solar

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024   

Drive around rural Minnesota and you might spot a solar farm. Complexities are being sorted out for bigger projects and in the meantime, farmers are adding solar arrays to fit their needs.

Clean energy advocates said solar is one of the many sources Minnesota needs to rely upon to meet its climate goals. The push continues to develop more utility-scale projects but opening up needed space on the power grid remains a challenge.

Larry Lahr, a central Minnesota farmer and landowner, has a handful of one-megawatt solar installations lined up next to each other. He leases a section of his land to a third party, which sells the electricity generated.

"Getting into an arrangement like that, [you] see the benefits in terms of having a revenue stream that was certainly significant," Lahr pointed out. "It diversified the rest of our farm income."

He noted it likely will make it easier to transition the property to future generations of his family. Larh added the power goes through a local substation, eliminating the need for new grid space.

Advocates acknowledged there's still conflict, including claims these projects gobble up prime farmland. However, the Clean Grid Alliance said the current amount of solar in the queue represents less than 1% of Minnesota's 17 million acres of soil-rich farmland.

Lahr acknowledged when people think of solar farms, they might picture endless rows of panels dominating the landscape. He countered the project on his property blends in with the surroundings.

"In this case, the site is tucked up against some woods," Lahr emphasized. "It's not a large-scale project like I think a lot of people feared when they were first expressing their opposition to our project."

Advocates said local opposition should not deter landowners from considering large projects if they have visions of bigger profits. Other solar supporters said if a farm added panels, it still can be a dual-use site with room for crops and livestock. Some Minnesota counties have pursued restrictions for such projects and Lahr admitted it will take more time to convince skeptics about the benefits.

Disclosure: Clean Energy Economy Minnesota and the Clean Grid Alliance Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, and the Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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