Electric cooperative to host public meeting on solar energy

FILE: Callaway Electric Cooperative in Fulton.
FILE: Callaway Electric Cooperative in Fulton.

Callaway Electric Cooperative is to host a public meeting to discuss solar facilities Wednesday.

State lawmakers who are sponsoring legislation concerning solar engergy will discuss their bills during the meeting.

The meeting will be held 7 p.m. at the cooperative's offices, 1313 Cooperative Drive.

The event will include discussions of House Bill 1052, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill.

HB 1052 aims to modify provisions for eminent domain for utility purposes. Eminent domain has been one concern for local residents about the Grain Belt Express Tiger Connector line, as many fear construction will occur on their property against their wishes.

The last action related to HB 1052 was on March 9, when it was referred to the Agriculture Policy Committee. Haffner is the chair of this committee. Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, a member of the committee, will be at Wednesday's meeting to discuss the bill.

The proposed effective date for the bill is Aug. 28. There are currently no further hearings scheduled for the bill, and it is not on a House calendar.

House Bill 1065 will also be discussed at the meeting. This bill seeks to modify provisions related to the taxation and regulation of property involved in the production of solar energy.

Haden is the sponsor for HB 1065. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Terry Thompson, R-Lexington, and Rep. Jim Schulte, R-New Bloomfield. Schulte, a member of the House Utilities Committee, will also be present at Wednesday's meeting to discuss the bill.

The bill was heard in the Utilities Committee on March 6.

HB 1065 would be effective on Aug. 28. It is not currently scheduled for a House hearing, and is not on a House calendar.

Senate Bill 549 will be discussed at the meeting. This bill modifies provisions relating to the regulation of solar energy. Under this bill, any person interested in building a solar farm must first submit an application to the county commission. An application would have to be submitted to each county that would have solar equipment from the solar farm.

County commissions would have 90 days after receiving an application to either issue a permit, issue a premit that limits the boundaries of the solar farm or deny the permit. A public meeting would also have to be held within the 90 day period.

The bill also states that the Public Service Commission will not give a certificate of public convenience or necessity to any applicant that was not approved by a county commission.

Senate Bill 549 would repeal the provision that allows solar energy systems to be exempt from property taxes. Under this bill, solar energy systems could still be exempt from property taxes if they are for use only on a single property and approved by the county assessor.

SB 549 would go into effect on Aug. 28.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit. He will be present at the meeting.

The Callaway County Commissioners will also be in attendance, when they will discuss a potential county ordinance that would issue guidelines and regulations for solar farms.

At a meeting held earlier in March, the commission was presented with a proposed 13-page conditional use ordinance that would address many of the concerns some have about the solar projects.

Three meetings were held From March 6-8 with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC). Two of the meetings were done virtually, and one meeting was in person at the Elks Lodge in Mexico.

Landowners and stakeholders voiced their opinions, concerns and requests about the Grain Belt Express to PSC officials. Formal evidentiary hearings will take place from May 22-26.

The evidentiary hearings will be in room 310 of the Governor Office Building (200 Madison St.) in Jefferson City.