Frequently Asked Questions

General

Why is Marshall Solar LLC developing a solar project in Minnesota?

The State of Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission (Commission) passed a rule requiring utilities to increase the diversity of their power generation to include a certain amount of solar energy - specifically, each investor-owned utility work to ensure that 1.5% of its customers are served by solar energy by 2020 and 10% of its customers by 2030.

Marshall Solar participated in a competitive bidding process by Northern States Power, an Xcel Energy subsidiary, in April 2014. Northern States Power selected three projects which represented most competitive and beneficial projects - the Marshall Solar Energy Project was one of those three projects.

Does the Project have a power purchase agreement and has it been approved?

The Project has a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Northern States Power, an Xcel Energy subsidiary. This PPA resulted from Marshall Solar's participation in a competitive bidding process through a request for proposals issued by Northern States Power in April 2014. The Commission approved the PPA in March 2015 in Docket Number E-002/M-14-162. All of the information regarding this proceeding is available on the Commission website.

What is the expected timeline for the development of this Project?

Marshall Solar completed the permitting stage of this Project when the Commission issued a Site Permit on May 5, 2016. Construction started in May 2016 and will last approximately seven months. Marshall Solar anticipates the start of commercial operations in January 2017.

Would this Project have any benefits for the community?

Yes. The Marshall Solar Energy Project is expected to provide opportunities for employment, contributions to the local tax base, and positive effects on local businesses.

Jobs during Construction: During the construction phase, the Project expects an average of 150 workers for day to day activities. The workforce is expected to peak at 250 during certain phases of construction. Additionally, local business would have opportunities to supply materials to support the construction of the Project and service industry businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and entertainment are likely to benefit from the increase in worker activity.

Jobs during Operations: During Project operation, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources expects to staff this facility with 2 to 3 full-time personnel. Local vendors and contractors would also have opportunities to provide supplies and service contracts for various types of work at the Project site.

Education Opportunities: The Marshall Solar Project will provide educational opportunities for students and teachers in local schools through hands-on solar curriculum that will help further Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) in the classroom.

Additional Tax Revenue for Local Governments and Schools: The Project will boost Minnesota’s economy by generating an estimated $400,000 in annual tax revenue during the operational life of the Project that will benefit the state, local government and area schools.

Technology

How does photovoltaic technology work?

As sunlight hits the solar panels, the solar radiation is converted into direct current (DC) electricity. The direct current is collected on cables from each "string" of panels and flows into power inverters, where it is converted into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC electricity flows on the electrical grid and is used by homes and businesses. The AC electricity from the power inverters is again collected using a series of cables and delivered to a central electrical substation where it passes through a power transformer. The transformer boosts the voltage of the current to match the voltage at the point of delivery at the local utility substation.

What are the main components of this Project?

The main components are the PV panel arrays, the power inverter units, the DC collection system, the AC collection system, the substation / transformer, and the transmission line. Each component is described in more detail below:

  1. PV Panels and Racking System - this makes up the bulk of the Project. The panels are mounted onto a fixed structure at an angle designed to optimize energy collection throughout the year. Strings of these panels are connected in series. A group of panel strings are then connected to a power inverter unit.
  2. The power inverter units collect output from the panel arrays and convert the power from direct current to alternating current. No power is produced at the inverter, it is simply a piece of equipment used to convert and control the energy generated by the solar field.
  3. The electrical collection system is used to aggregate all the AC electricity produced by the inverter units spread out across the solar field. This AC collection system delivers all electricity to the Project substation and the cabling used by the system is generally located underground. This system operates at a voltage of 34.5 kilovolts.
  4. The Project substation is used to transform the electricity from 34.5 kilovolts to 115 kilovolts, which is the operating voltage at the substation where the Project is expected to connect. The Project substation also contains disconnect switches and control equipment to protect both the project and the electrical grid in the event of an electrical fault or emergency.
  5. A short transmission line would connect the Project substation to the Lyon County Substation. This line would be constructed overhead for a short distance. The final route of this line is expected to be determined in the near future.

How tall would the panels be?

The panel arrays would stand approximately 8-9 feet above ground level and the panels would face south at a 22.5-degree angle.

Would the Project site be fenced?

Marshall Solar intends to install a security fence along the perimeter of the Project. After consulting with the Department of Natural Resources, the fence installed would be approximately 8-feet tall. Marshall Solar has also consulted with Lyon County and Township officials regarding the need for adequate space along road rights-of-way to accommodate snow removal. The fence locations have been design with this consideration in mind.

Can the equipment be damaged by hail or wind?

The support systems for the solar arrays would be designed to withstand the typical wind-loading present in this area. Most manufacturers of PV panels have tested and rated their equipment to withstand impacts from hailstones up to a certain size. Any panels that are damaged by hail or other debris can be individually replaced without taking the entire Project out of service.

What happens if the panels are covered with snow?

The panels would be installed at a 22.5-degree angle from horizontal. This allows the panels to optimize the amount of solar energy that hits them given the relatively high latitude in Minnesota. It would also allow most snow and ice to slide off the panels onto the ground once the sun rises and begins to warm the panels.

Permitting

Why did Marshall Solar choose this site for the Project?

Marshall Solar conducted a search throughout southwest Minnesota and conducted extensive due diligence before choosing this location for the Project. A suitable site must exhibit a number of key characteristics for a future project to be viable. These characteristics include:

  1. Solar resource - southwest Minnesota has some of the state's best solar resource availability, which means the Project can generate the greatest amount of energy given its size.
  2. Existing transmission infrastructure - the site is close to existing and robust transmission infrastructure that is owned by Xcel Energy and Northern States Power. This means that no new off-site transmission lines would be required to connect the Project to the electrical grid and once the Project is connected, it can be transmitted easily to where it is needed.
  3. Close to existing road infrastructure - State, county, and township road networks exist near the Project site and would allow for easier delivery of equipment and workers. No new road infrastructure needs to be constructed since the existing roads are suitable. Any damage caused to these roads would be repaired.
  4. Suitable and available land for the Project - the site is owned by landowners with an interest in selling their property. Since the site has been cultivated and farmed for many years, there is a low probability that sensitive environmental issues such as endangered species, cultural artifacts, or protected wetlands exist on the property.

What permits are required to build the Project?

The main permit required to construct the Project is a Site Permit from the Commission. In addition to the Site Permit, the Project also required approvals from Lyon County and Stanley Township for storm water permits, driveway permits, road crossing agreements, and other approvals. Marshall Solar has received all applicable State and local permits needed to begin construction of the Marshall Solar Project.

What other government agencies has Marshall Solar coordinated with?

Marshall Solar has contacted and in most cases, met with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Lyon County Commissioners, Lyon County Planning and Zoning Department, Lyon County Soil & Water Conservation District, and other officials from both Lyon County and Stanley Township.

Impacts

Would the panels have glare?

Photovoltaic panels are constructed with non-reflective glass. The panels are meant to absorb as much sunlight as possible in order to maximize electrical generation. Glint and glare are kept to a minimum.

Would this Project make noise?

During the short construction period, noise at the Project site would be typical of construction sites.

Once operational, the only sources of noise at the Project would be a low "hum" typical of power equipment, specifically the power inverters and substation transformer. Given the distances between this equipment and the nearest residences, the equipment would not result in the exceedance of any Minnesota noise level regulations. A more detailed analysis and discussion of potential noise impacts is included in the Project's Site Permit Application.

Is there any concern with EMF with this technology?

EMF stands for electric and magnetic fields. These fields surround anything that is generating, transmitting, or using electricity. The highest levels of EMF are measured directly near the source and levels decrease with increasing distance. Electric fields are the result of the voltage applied to an electrical object, while magnetic fields are the result of the electricity flowing through these objects.

Additional information regarding EMF can be found on the Resources Page.

Would the Project negatively impact property values in the area?

The impact on adjacent property values is difficult to quantify. However, we are not aware of any peer-reviewed scientific studies indicating an adverse impact on property values from solar energy projects.

Would this Project create stray voltage which could impact livestock or wildlife?

Stray voltage issues are generally caused by improperly grounded and/or isolated electrical circuits found in older buildings, factories, or barns. For example, older buildings may have been constructed out of compliance with electrical code and have minor shorts somewhere in one or more electrical circuits. These short circuits are large enough to impart a charge to the floor of the building or even bare ground, but small enough to avoid tripping a circuit breaker. Similarly, improper circuit grounding can also impart a charge to the floor or ground surface by not providing adequate metal to ground contact to diffuse this power and properly ground the circuit.

Grounding for the Project would occur naturally at the posts, but primary circuit grounding would be at the inverter pads. All grounded electrical installation would include a grounding grid or similar system matched to the equipment being grounded and the site soil conditions. All such systems would be designed and certified by a licensed electrical engineer. Similar designs and systems would be installed for higher voltage systems at the Project substation. The facility would be fully in compliance with all electrical codes, properly inspected, and would not cause any stray voltage concerns in the immediate area.

How would the Project impact the agricultural character of the area?

The land on which the Project is sited would not be suitable for farming for the duration of the Project's life. Marshall Solar is enganged with Minnesota Department of Agriculture and local experts to develop a plan intended to minimize any disruption to the long-term productivity of the land. When the useful life of the Project ends, the Project would be decommissioned and equipment would be removed from the site. At this point in time, the property could resume productive farming operations. The Project would have no impact on adjacent properties that are farmed by their owners. The Project would not create noise, dust, shading, run-off or other impacts which would negatively affect adjacent farming operations.

Is there a risk of fire at the facility?

There is a low likelihood that a fire would occur at the facility. The solar field itself has no substantial fuel source to support a fire - the panels are primarily metal and glass and there would only be grass and small plants under the arrays. The inverter units and the pad mount transformers contain no hazardous materials. In the event that one of these did catch fire, it is unlikely that the fire would spread further. The transformers are filled with non-hazardous vegetable oils and pose no environmental risk if there is a release.

Would this Project impact drainage tile in the area?

The Project would take special care to avoid damaging any drainage tile during construction and certain segments of the existing tile system will be relocated and repaired during the initial phase of construction. Marshall Solar will abide by all the requirements related to drain tile that are outlined in the Site Permit.

Would there be new access roads built to the Project Area?

No new roads would need to be constructed in order to access the Project site. The primary access route would likely be County Highway 9. Some combination of access points from 290th Street, 320th Avenue, and Highway 9 would be used during the operation of the Project and we intend to work with the township and county to secure whatever driveway permits and approvals are required.

Back to Top