Solar company discusses potential North Callaway project

Peter Endres, development director with Ranger Power, answers questions from residents outside a North Callaway School Board meeting Thursday. (Michael Shine/FULTON SUN)
Peter Endres, development director with Ranger Power, answers questions from residents outside a North Callaway School Board meeting Thursday. (Michael Shine/FULTON SUN)

A larger than average crowd attended Thursday’s North Callaway School Board meeting to hear more about a potential solar farm project in the area.

Peter Endres, development director with Ranger Power, said the company is looking into building a large-scale solar farm which would generate around 250 megawatts, or enough electricity to power around 35,000 homes.

Endres said 14 landowners around the northern part of the county have signed lease agreements for the project and it would tie into the Ameren substation to put power into the electrical grid.

Overall, the agreements amount to around 3,000 acres he said, but not all of it will be used for solar panels.

While not sharing specific properties involved, Endres presented a map to the board of the general area Ranger Power is looking at. The map highlighted an area west of Highway 54, slightly farther west than FF, crossing the river to the north and ending at Kingdom City.

It did not include property within the city limits of Kingdom City.

“Ultimately we came here because of a few things,” Endres said. “There’s a good solar resource that will help us generate electricity. There’s existing infrastructure that we can tie into … we have relatively low environmental concerns … and we have landowners who are willing to participate in the project.”

Endres said there’s still a lot to work through before the project would start.

Any panels would be surrounded by a fence and would be at least 150 feet away from any residences, 50 feet from wetlands and 30 feet from the road.

Endres said the company normally puts a native spring mix down in the field along with the panels and sometimes pollinators. The land could also potentially still be used for grazing, he said, although some animals, like sheep, do better than others, such as goats and cows.

The land could actually be healthier at the end of the project, he said, as the vegetation grows in the soil and rebuilds nutrients.

“It’s an assumption, but it’s an informed assumption,” he said.

Also, the project would not involve removing the top soil from the land.

The panels would be made up of silica wafers — which absorb the sunlight — along with tempered glass, steel and aluminum. Endres said the panels would not require any concrete in the ground and would be 100 percent removed at the end of the project. The panels are expected to last 30-35 years, although the project could be extended if there’s enough interest to do so.

He said the lease agreements are for 40 years.

If the project goes through, it would be at least a $300 million investment, Endres said.

In Missouri, solar panels are currently exempt from local taxes, but the land itself would still be taxed.

However, Endres said Ranger Power has proposed paying the county $625,000 annually for the duration of the project. How those funds might be dispersed would be up to the county commission. The county has not signed an agreement with Ranger Power.

In response to board member questions, Endres said, the project — labeled Show-Me Solar — would be treated as a separate entity from Ranger Power to help ensure it’s still viable if the company goes under. Also, due to the nature of contracts to sell the power, which are typically long-term contracts, it is unlikely the project itself would go under.

He said the company would also be open to things like vocational training with the school district.