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County planning commission hears ReneSola solar garden proposal

The McLeod County Planning Advisory Commission made a recommendation to the county board for another 4-megawatt solar garden. On property owned by Dennis and Berta Lilienthal in Helen Township, ReneSola Power — an international solar project development company — is looking to make use of Xcel Energy’s solar rewards community program, which provides residential subscriptions to third-party solar energy companies like ReneSola. SolarOne was the latest third-party company that the county board approved for construction at its first August meeting.
Making its ascension alongside healthy-living clubs, solar energy companies are poised to be the latest commercial fad, and a profitable one at that. It’s an intriguing and complex business model: an energy company enters a county looking to build, usually on private farmland. The energy company gets approved for construction and harvests the energy via solar garden. It then sells the power to Xcel Energy while offering subscriptions to consumers to take part in the renewable energy for cheaper than what they currently pay.
The county gets an increased revenue from the boosted value in property taxes, the private landowner gains revenue through a lease with third-party energy companies, ReneSola sells the harvested energy at a premium to Xcel (which wants the power for solar credits), and an unmanned solar garden collects energy on sunny days.

Read the full story in the Aug. 29 edition of The Chronicle.