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New Bloomfield declares solar farms a nuisance

by Michael Shine | April 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
The company NextEra Energy Resources plans to lease land for a solar power project that would span approximately 600 acres in Callaway County, mostly focus on the New Bloomfield area. The New Bloomfield Concerned Citizens Against Guthrie Solar will host a town hall April 13 for citizens to discuss concerns about the project with local officials. Juile Smith/News Tribune

The New Bloomfield Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday evening to declare utility-scale solar installations a city nuisance.

The measure comes after community outcry over a potential solar power project by NextEra Energy Resources in and around the city.

NextEra Energy Resources has expressed interest in a solar power project that would span approximately 600 acres in Callaway County, mostly focused around the New Bloomfield area.

The project is not a done deal and remains in the early stages, but many Callaway County residents -- in particular around New Bloomfield -- have concerns about the impact a solar power project could have on the area.

However, the ordinance now prohibits any such project within a half-mile of city limits.

The ordinance defines utility-scale solar facilities as a single facility or group of connected facilities "designed to produce electric energy from solar collectors which said facility produces more than 50 megawatts of power or covers an area larger than 200 acres."

With the unanimous passage of this new ordinance, the city is authorized to order abatement of a nuisance.

In order to not be considered a nuisance, a solar facility cannot have equipment within 1,000 feet of city limits, the facility needs to have a buffer with a paneled fence or natural vegetation and it needs to be designed so no stormwater from the facility enters city property.

The ordinance laid out concerns including stormwater and erosion.

Stormwater runoff has been a persistent problem in New Bloomfield, City Attorney Nathan Nickolaus said.

Another concern cited in the ordinance is the risk of fire. According to the ordinance, there were 155 fires caused by solar panel systems from 2015-20 with 71 at non-residential systems.

"Representatives with the New Bloomfield Fire Protection District have stated that their department lacks the facilities to fight a fire within a utility-scale solar facility comprising of hundreds of acres," Nickolaus said.

Other reasons cited in the ordinance include the potential impact on property values and aesthetics.

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