BUFFALO, Minn. (WCCO) — A solar farm project in Buffalo Township has residents concerned about the environmental impacts. That may seem strange because since solar power is a form of renewable energy.

Residents say they’re angry because developers clear-cut about about a thousand trees on the property, but there’s even more to it than that.

Scattered limbs and trunks line the property of a plot of land in Buffalo, some of which, residents say, are from a 200-year-old oak tree.

“Theoretically we’re going green when we go solar,” Franklin Township Supervisor Chairman DeWayne Bauman said. “Cutting down six to eight acres of all that woods, and all that hardwood, is not going green.”

Because state law give Public Utilities Commission regulators full control over big solar developments, there’s nothing Buffalo Township residents could do about the clear-cutting.

“Government starts in your back yard. It starts right here,” Bauman said. “This is as close as you can get to the grass-roots form of government, and we’ve lost that control. It’s like we don’t matter.”

It’s a problem happening all across Wright County. In Franklin Township, they’ve already placed a moratorium on solar plans to try to slow down development.

“A lot of these things came out so fast and so quick and so hard, we had no idea what was involved and how much of it,” Bauman said.

And it’s not just about losing trees, it’s about losing agricultural land too. Bauman says the International Solar Company is buying up vital farmland for almost double the price.

“They were bragging about, ‘This is the best, prime ag land in all of Wright County.’ I don’t think that’s a good spot for solar fields, so there is a lot of concern,” Bauman said. “We’re basically saying, ‘Don’t even approach us for good, prime ag land.’ We need that land for the farmers and for the crops and for the cattle. Ag land should be used for growing things, and for raising things.”

Wright County representatives plan to talk about options for another moratorium on solar farms at next Tuesday’s board meeting.

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