Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) is the municipal utility of Rochester, MN, responsible for providing electricity to over 55,000 Minnesotans. The utility is working in partnership with WSB and WestSide Solar, a solar array developer, to create a solar energy farm in Cascade Township. The project will help further RPU’s commitment to reducing its use of fossil fuels by achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
The solar energy farm will supply electricity for the RPU, lessening the utility’s reliance on fossil fuels. In the long-term, solar energy is one of the most abundant renewable energy resources and most cost-effective.
The project site is north of the city of Rochester and spans over 130 acres. Preliminary steps were taken to fulfill due diligence on the site in fall 2019. We conducted a hydrology study of existing and proposed conditions and an environmental feasibility study for a conditional use permit application. The hydrology study included mitigation strategies designed for stormwater management on the project site. The site had acres of severe slope, requiring wetland delineation, a review of suspected Karst conditions, then site planning and grading to minimize impacts to areas of environmental concern.
We also provided civil design services, including site grading and access roads.
We coordinated with several key organizations, working with the local planning board and zoning district to satisfy jurisdictional and client requirements. The conditional use permit secured through the environmental feasibility study allowed WestSide Solar to change the zoning on the project site from agricultural to solar farm zoning.
By increasing the renewable footprint for their service area and relying less on fossil fuels to serve their customers, RPU is working towards cost and energy efficiency. WestSide Solar and WSB continue to work in partnership with RPU on the project. It is anticipated that the site will be operational by fall of 2021.