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Small solar project near Newman Grove passes first round

January 19, 2019

What is believed to be the first public hearing in Madison County on a solar project took place on Thursday evening — except the small project will be completed in Platte County.

The Madison County Joint Planning Commission conducted a public hearing and then approved the conditional-use permit application of Gene and Rose Wissenburg to install a solar cell array on land located at 1101 County Line Road, which is southeast of Newman Grove.

The land located in Platte County is just outside of Newman Grove but within the town’s one-mile zoning jurisdiction. Newman Grove — like most of the towns in Madison County — does not have a planning commission, so the county’s joint planning commission acts as one for the towns.

Heather McWhorter, the county’s planning and zoning administrator, said the project is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

Gene Wissenburg told commissioners that there are many benefits to solar energy.

“It’s environmentally friendly. It’s not unsightly because nobody can see it. And there’s no noise and no odor,” he said.

The panels will cover an area of about 12 feet by 52 feet. The panels are made in the United States, Wissenburg said, and local contractors will be used.

On a sunny day, the solar array should produce about 13.2 kilowatts, which will be used for the house. Loup Public Power District has something known as net metering that will measure electricity produced and give credit for extra energy produced.

Wissenburg said on most days, the panels will provide all the electricity the house will use. On good days, it will deliver power to Loup Power and earn credit for it.

Wissenburg said the goal is to get their electricity bill down to just the monthly line feed.

The panels will be hidden from view by a shelter belt. It is not as large but expected to be similar to solar panels west of Lindsay near the highway, commissioners were told.

McWhorter said the City of Newman Grove does not have any solar regulations, but it does have a matrix to follow for alternative energy. That’s what was used to decide the merits of this project.

The commission voted 8-0 to forward it to the Newman Grove City Council, which has final jurisdiction. Nobody spoke in opposition.

Also Thursday evening, the joint planning commission approved solar regulations for the county that had been proposed earlier. Highlights will be presented next week in the Daily News.

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