Brookings City Council receives update on solar farm project near landfill

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BROOKINGS — Missouri River Energy Services provided city leaders with an update on the status of a 5-megawatt solar farm project at the Oct. 24 Brookings City Council meeting.

The solar farm will be southwest of Brookings Regional Landfill and is expected to use 40 of 75 acres that have been purchased for the project. The unused acres will allow for possible expansion in the future. Current aspects that are underway include:

• Conceptual design

• Site-grading design

• Easement acquisition

• Interconnection routing study

• Grant funding

“If we’re able to obtain any type of grant funding — obviously, that would lower the overall cost of this, which we’re very conscious of,” Tim Blodgett, MRES vice-president of member services and communications, said.

Developing and building the project is currently estimated to cost in the ballpark of $20 million, but the estimate is “soft” in nature and could change, Blodgett said.

“We need to harden those up,” he added.

He noted that a collector station — where the energy from the solar panels will flow into — is also planned. An interconnection would start there as well, and that negotiations are taking place with landowners for an underground easement to run a line underground from the solar farm to the Brookings Municipal Utilities substation on 34th Avenue.

Looking ahead, the project’s next steps include:

• Permitting

• Detailed design

• Project interconnection studies

• Contracting for project construction

Right now, Blodgett said, the estimated operational date is some time in the first quarter of 2025. Once operational, the solar farm is expected to be used for 30 or more years.

“Because there’s so much pent-up demand for solar right now and there’s some supply chain issues within that, we feel kind of confident, but we’re not 100 percent sure we’ll be able to get it done by then, but we’re pushing it as hard as we can,” Blodgett concluded.

The solar farm project in Brookings isn’t the first one for Missouri River Energy Services. It has an operational, 1-megawatt facility in Pierre and is building a 10-megawatt farm in Marshall, Minnesota.

Power supply mix

Discussion of the power supply mix for Brookings Municipal Utilities also came up during the presentation by Blodgett and his associates. Key percentages include:

• BMU draws 32% of its power supply from hydro sources

• Coal supplies 23% of BMU’s needs

• Market purchases account for 31% electrical needs

• Wind power supplies 5% of BMU’s requirements

• Nuclear energy adds up to 6% of the overall supply pie

• Far smaller amounts were represented by natural gas and diesel elements

New coffee shop

Going beyond the solar farm update, other issues handled by the City Council at the Oct. 24 meeting included:

• A 7-0 vote approving the commercial corridor design review overlay district site plan at 2008 22nd Ave. S. Per information in a memo, it will be the site of a drive-through coffee shop.

• Gave the green light, on 7-0 votes, to city general union and police union agreements with Teamster Local Union No. 120.

• Had the first reading of the 2024 city budget ordinance, formally known as Ordinance 23-037.

The request for next year tops out at $70,193,858 — an increase of $8,446,018 from the 2023 budget of $61,747,840. Second reading and action is set for the Nov. 14 City Council meeting.

— Contact Mondell Keck at mkeck@brookingsregister.com.