Updated: Dec 12, 2019
At the most recent Pine County Board meeting, it was announced that the county had received the Bronze designation from the SolSmart program.
SolSmart is a US Department of Energy funded program that was started in 2016 with the idea of helping communities foster solar energy development.
"By enrolling in this program, we were able to get technical assistance through a local vendor who was working with the Department of Energy, and they helped write the zoning provision for solar farms and wind farms in our county zoning ordinance," said Land and Resource Manager Caleb Anderson. He went on to say, "We enrolled at no cost, and we've got some technical assistance to help us have good standards, so when those developers do come knocking saying we want to start a solar farm in Pine County... we're prepared for that."
Pine County's Bronze designation means that they have been recognized for its steps in laying the groundwork for future potential solar growth. These steps include drafting language in its zoning ordinance (not yet adopted) to help facilitate wise and timely development of solar farms, holding workshops that exercise planning and zoning to prepare for solar development, and the participation in the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program to provide a financial tool for businesses to install solar.
During the December 3 board meeting, Anderson told the commissioners that this designation will help nationally identify Pine County as an area ready for development.
According to a study done by the Minnesota Commerce department, 24.9% of the energy consumed by the state came from renewable resources.