Kucera speaks out on possible solar development

Public hearing delayed again to May 9

Tama County Administration Building, 104 W State St., Toledo, Iowa. TELEGRAPH FILE PHOTO

TOLEDO – During the public comment portion of the April 17 Tama Co. Board of Supervisors meeting, landowner Terry Kucera of Sergeant Bluff spoke regarding his recent decision to sign four separate solar energy easements with the company TED Renewables for roughly 960 acres across Perry and Clark townships just east of Traer.

“I have seen many changes in the course of my lifetime including solar,” Kucera began in his address to the supervisors. “I did not make this decision lightly. I know it is likely that it may not go through. … I know I have to accept the consequences.”

Kucera explained the agreement — if signed — with TED Renewables would be for five years. He also said the company planned to seed grass beneath the panels “to protect the soil” and to install fencing around the array. No lights would be erected, however, Kucera added.

“I want to protect the soil and have it impact the county in a positive way,” Kucera continued. “I’ve thought about how much energy it will generate. The sun is easy to harvest. Corn can be turned into ethanol – it takes 300 bushels to produce 28.2 gallons of fuel. One acre of land can produce enough solar energy for an electric car to drive 7,000 miles per vehicle. This will help us produce more food.”

Kucera went on to say he believes his decision to enroll his acres in a commercial solar array would benefit the North Tama School District as it relates to tax receipts.

West Union Cemetery located east of Traer. The cemetery is surrounded by agricultural fields that were recently enrolled in a lease agreement with TED Renewables LLC, a solar development company. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

To end his formal comments, Kucera then asked, “Why do I have people opposing what I do with my land, when I am not hurting my land?”

Kucera was quickly questioned by a member of the audience, Dysart farmer and member of the coalition Tama County Against Turbines (TCAT) Richard Arp. TCAT formed over a year ago in direct opposition to wind energy development in the county at the time by the company Apex Clean Energy.

Arp asked where Kucera was from to which he replied Sergeant Bluff before asking if Kucera had checked with his neighbors about the possible commercial solar array.

“I did,” Kucera responded. “They didn’t want it on their land.”

One set of Kucera’s neighbors – Jeff and Lynn Cizek who reside in Clark Township – attended the Feb. 21 board of supervisors meeting to voice concerns about Kucera’s decision to enroll his acres in the solar energy easement.

Audience member Nancy Yuska asked Kucera what he thought were appropriate setbacks to which Kucera replied, “I don’t think one mile is reasonable, you need to talk to the neighbors.”

Kucera was then addressed by TCAT member Heather Knebel who stated her own property is near a proposed wind turbine.

“It would be easier to sell my property [next to a wind turbine] than a property next to a solar farm,” Knebel said. “Acreage owners have rights, too.”

“Acreage owners are putting their homes in an industrial area when they are in a rural setting,” Kucera replied. “There are tractors, combines, bins, livestock, etc. … I knew coming here I would be approached. You need to get the facts before you make a decision.”

Discussion then turned to a petition Kucera provided to the supervisors asking to delay the April 25 public hearing scheduled to address changes to the county’s Solar Zoning Ordinance. A delay was requested in order to allow farmers valuable time to complete spring planting.

No action was taken regarding the petition during the April 17 meeting.

During the board of supervisors meeting held the following Monday, April 24, action was taken to move the solar zoning hearing to Tuesday, May 9, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Toledo Reinig Center with supervisors Bill Faircloth and Dan Anderson voting in favor, and supervisor Curt Hilmer voting against. Kucera was not present during the April 24 meeting.

The petition contained roughly 60 signatures.