Twenty acres of energy

 A proposal by a Columbus, Ohio-based electrical power company would convert this open field, just southeast of the Barron city limits, into an array of solar collectors. The aerial photo with the solar collectors drawn in was part of a presentation on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, to the city Plan Commission. Photo contributed

A public hearing is set for Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Barron City Hall, on a proposed 3.6-megawatt facility to provide solar-generated power to Barron City Utility customers over the next 30 years.

Unveiled at a meeting of the city Plan Commission Monday, Aug. 31, the facility would be built on 20 acres of city-owned property at 1295 16th Street, known locally as the Poor Farm Road, not far from the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Approximately 9,500 solar collectors would comprise the array, according to Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power, which provides wholesale electrical energy to the city.

“When (the facility is) complete, the solar energy produced (by the array) will offset almost seven percent of the city of Barron’s electrical consumption,” American Electric Power spokesman Juan C. Alvarez told the Plan Commission Monday.

During the presentation, the company displayed images of existing power arrays, including a 6.3-megawatt facility in Red Wing, Minn., and two others in Ohio.

A company chart indicated that AEP and/or its corporate partners have 43 existing solar sites in 43 states, including Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

According to City Administrator Liz Jacobson, the city would continue to own the 20-acre site where the array would be built.

“American Electric will then take that land to construct and maintain the solar field,” she said Tuesday Sept. 1.

In addition to providing the land, the city has been asked to sign an agreement to purchase electricity from the array until the year 2050.

“The company predicts there will be substantial savings if we can work out the arrangement,” Jacobson added.

American Electric Power projects that over the next 30 years, city utility customers can expect a total savings of nearly $2,250,000, she added.

The Sept. 14 public hearing will be the last step in a permission process that will be overseen by the city Plan Commission.

“The public hearing will be about (American Electric Power’s) application for a conditional use permit to construct the facility,” Jacobson said.

If the public hearing is successful, the Plan Commission has the authority to grant the permit.”