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Minnesota DNR releases new commercial solar siting guidance

Minnesota DNR releases new commercial solar siting guidance Barr helped Flint Hills Resources navigate key environmental and social considerations for the solar farm being designed at Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) released updated commercial solar siting guidance on February 27, 2023. The intent of the document is to guide the siting and development of commercial solar facilities to minimize natural resources impacts in Minnesota. The original guidance was released by the MDNR in May 2016. Key guidance updates are summarized below and include new agency recommendations for fencing, wildlife protection, lighting, dust control and mulch, and vegetative management.

Perimeter fencing: The MDNR recommends using fencing at adequate heights (typically 10 feet) to exclude deer, elk, and small mammals when appropriate. They also recommend a road right-of-way setback of 50 feet and may require a fencing plan as a permit condition.

Wildlife protection: The updated guidance includes a new recommendation to coordinate with MDNR on flight diverters where appropriate (e.g., existing transmission lines, aboveground collection lines). The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) typically requires flight diverters for birds as a condition of a Route Permit.

Facility lighting: The updated guidance contains recommendations for facility lighting including using shielded and downward facing lighting. If using LED lighting, MDNR recommends following MnDOT specifications and limiting the maximum nominal color temperature to 4000K.

Dust control and mulch: The MDNR recommends avoiding chemical dust suppressants containing chloride and using a hydro-mulch free of synthetic fibers, invasive plant seed, and malachite green dye.

Vegetation management: All utility-scale projects permitted by the PUC now require a Vegetation Management Plan. In addition, the new guidance references the 2018 technical guidance for invasive species control: “Cleaning Heavy Equipment used on Land to Minimize the Introduction and Spread of Invasive Species.”

For additional information, contact our team of solar power permitting experts.

About the authors

LaurieBeth Nederveld, senior ecologist and regulatory specialist, conducts and manages natural resource surveys and environmental permitting for wetlands, streams and floodplains, and protected species. She has coordinated federal, state, and local permitting, as well as natural resource survey field teams, for wind and solar projects across the Midwest. She also specializes in wetland determinations and delineations, stream assessments, and protected species desktop reviews and on-site habitat assessments. She primarily serves clients in the power, fuels, and public sectors.

Sarah Johnson, senior environmental consultant, manages multidisciplinary teams in the renewable energy, power, fuels, and mining sectors across the Upper Midwest and Intermountain West. She specializes in environmental review impact assessments; permitting and consultation at the local, state, federal, and tribal levels; and construction compliance oversight. Sarah works with clients and teams to identify permitting strategies, design projects that minimize impacts, and navigate regulatory processes.

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LaurieBeth Nederveld, Senior Ecologist/Regulatory Specialist
LaurieBeth Nederveld
Senior Ecologist and Regulatory Specialist


Sarah Johnson, Senior Environmental Consultant
Sarah Johnson
Senior Environmental Consultant


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