College leases land for new solar garden near campus

St. Olaf has agreed to lease approximately 10 acres of its land northwest of campus to Hyacinth Solar, LLC for a one megawatt (MW) community solar garden.
The proposed solar garden could generate enough energy to power approximately 258 homes each year and avoid approximately 1,480 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, according to Hyacinth.

Hyacinth is a subsidiary of Geronimo Energy, LLC and prides itself on “developing renewable energy projects that are farmer-friendly, community-driven, and beneficial for rural communities,” according to Geronimo’s website.

Kevin Larson, director of facilities at St. Olaf, believes this land is a good fit for the project because it is near an existing five MW solar garden. The new solar garden can utilize the pre-existing power lines, which makes it more economical than if it were located in a field without any power lines to tap into. The project will connect to Xcel Energy’s existing distribution system.

Larson believes leasing this land invests in and supports greener energy which is an overall goal of the institution. St. Olaf is presently carbon neutral for all campus electricity, meaning the net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is zero, through subscriptions to over 30 one-MW solar fields, Larson said.

Project planners do not anticipate that the solar garden will impact any natural, scenic or historic features in the city.

The project will also include a vegetated buffer to reduce possible visual impacts to nearby roads, according to Hyacinth’s conditional use permit application.
Hyacinth intends to start construction of the facility as early as spring 2020 and hopes to complete the project by the end of 2020.

Geronimo has worked with the city of Northfield on establishing the best way to utilize the land they are leasing from St. Olaf. This project is a notable way to endorse Northfield as inclusive to alternative energy sources and provide residents with more ways to subscribe to local green energy while still being conscientious to existing land and community, Northfield City Planner Mikayla Schmidt said.