Renewable energy technologies are having an increasingly prominent role in energy systems. Utility-scale wind power is the cheapest form of electric generation in the world and the cost continues to go down. The cost of solar is expected to achieve parity with wind in the next couple of years. More projects will come to Stearns County in the future and the County will continue to consider compatible land uses and community benefits as they do. The addition of renewable energy production technologies to a farmer/landowner’s property as an accessory use can add value to the production of the property and make agricultural uses more feasible.
Wind energy production has limited conflicts with many forms of agricultural land uses and has many significant co-benefits with agricultural protection goals. It has a clear benefit of adding to agricultural economic diversity and can produce significant local tax benefits for the County. Primary land use conflicts with wind energy production include natural habitat and rural residences, both of which have a relatively limited presence on agricultural land. Visual impacts of wind energy production may be challenging to mitigate.
Solar energy production can enhance the economic diversity of agricultural operations as well. Visual impacts from solar production can be mitigated and opportunities exist for co-location with agricultural services. Solar development potentially has significant co-benefits with natural resource protection goals when solar array site design guidelines specify perennial ground cover with a mix of native grasses and pollinator flower mixes.
Wind Site Design Land Use Co-Benefits
Wind development has potential co-benefits with economic development goals discussed throughout this Pillar and the Business Pillar.
Solar Site Design Land Use
Solar development potentially has significant co-benefits with natural resource protection goals discussed throughout the Nature Pillar.