BUFFALO, Minn. (KMSP) - For 4 generations, change on Don Schmidt’s farm field in Wright County has been dictated by the sky, and by age. Schmidt will admit he's a little biased on this one, but he'd prefer the same sun that will cause corn to grow from his field not cause rows of solar panels to soon emerge from a nearby field.
“The concern we have is the large amount of farm land being lost,” Schmidt said.
For many Buffalo Township residents, solar panels are an invasive species they believe will ruin the soil and ruin the agricultural community -- they’ve already ruined acres of trees, now chopped.
A soon-to-be 75-acre solar field is just the beginning. By 2020, 1.5 percent of power must come from the sun, but to get solar power, you need land.
“This is just a little thing happening in Wright County that you're going to see across the entire state,” said Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Buffalo)
Rep. Marion O'Neill says it's the state, via the Public Utilities Commission, that had the ultimate say on this solar field. But despite public meetings, locals often feel left out of the decision-making process.
“They need a voice,” O’Neill said. “The township officers, the county commissioners they need a voice in every single siting. They need to permit all of it. We can't just have the state say, yep, you need to do this.”
Rep. O'Neill will introduce an amendment Monday that would make it illegal to clear cut trees on more than three acres of a solar field. The Italian company that owns that solar field tells us they are committed to addressing any concerns.