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Solar arrays generate mixed bag in Afton

Afton City Council said “yes” to residential solar array systems but balked at commercial solar farms. (Submitted image)

Afton City Council began to look on the bright side of energy last week.

City Council discussed the potential of allowing residential and commercial solar arrays during a Sept. 25 workshop.

Afton Planning Commission began discussing solar arrays several months ago, however it required more direction from City Council before proceeding with drafting an ordinance, which brought the issue to the council last week.

A solar array – a collection of solar panels – can generate and supply electricity in commercial and residential applications as a form of renewable energy.

Currently, Afton does not have any regulations related to solar arrays, however several residential systems are already in use within the city.

Afton currently permits wind turbines within the city as a form of renewable energy.

Planning Commission primarily wanted direction from City Council related to commercial solar arrays, specifically whether or not the city wants to allow for solar farms.

Council Member Randy Nelson and Mayor Dick Bend appeared hesitant to allow commercial solar farms.

“It may be good from a green standpoint and a low carbon footprint, but it has a very large visual footprint,” Bend said.

Council Member Joe Richter appeared to be open to entertaining the idea.

“By not allowing commercial solar arrays, we’re limiting the use of their property,” Richter said.

Council members Bill Palmquist and Peg Nolz did not voice a strong opinion one way or another.

In the end, City Council opted to direct Planning Commission to focus its efforts on drafting an ordinance for residential solar arrays.

“We don’t want to completely dismiss commercial at this point either,” City Administrator Ron Moorse said.

City Council said they would like to see solar arrays that can provide up to 200 percent of the energy needed by an individual household.

“I’d like to do whatever we can to encourage residents to do this,” Palmquist said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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