First public meeting set May 19 to review Duane Arnold Solar proposals

The first public meeting to review the Duane Arnold Solar utility-scale solar application has been set.

Linn County officials announced Thursday that the county’s Technical Review Committee will review the Duane Arnold Solar I and II applications Thursday, May 19 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the lower level of the Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW in Cedar Rapids.

The meeting is the first step in the county’s review of the Duane Arnold Solar projects. It will be open to the public, and residents can attend virtually or in person, but no public comment will be taken.

Under the plan, formalized in November 2021 in a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources – which announced plans for the solar installation on the Duane Arnold site in March 2021 and have dubbed the project Duane Arnold Solar, with an office already open in Palo – will develop and install 200 megawatts of solar generation and a 75-megawatt battery energy storage facility near the former nuclear plant, which is no longer in operation and is in the midst of a 60-year decommissioning process.

The Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo is shown when it was still in operation. CBJ FILE PHOTO

The project would be constructed in two phases. Duane Arnold I is a proposed 50-megawatt solar energy project on approximately 316 acres of agricultural land within an 857-acre area project site in Linn County, while Duane Arnold II is a proposed 150-megawatt solar energy project and a 75-megawatt battery energy storage system on approximately 815 acres of largely agricultural land within a 1,780-acre area project site, also in Linn County.

Once completed, ownership of both projects would be transferred to Alliant Energy, through its subsidiary Interstate Power & Light Company (IPL), for ongoing operation.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 and would make Alliant the largest combined solar and battery storage operator in the state.

As part of the county’s review process, all utility-scale solar applicants in Linn County must undergo a review by the Technical Review Committee, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and three readings by the Board of Supervisors. The process is designed to review all applications against the county’s development standards as outlined in the ordinance, county officials said, and additional standards may be imposed as part of the review process.

A detail map shows the plans for Duane Arnold Solar 1 (outlined in red) and Duane Arnold Solar II (outlined in purple). CREDIT LINN COUNTY

In March, the Iowa Utilities Board formally accepted the Duane Arnold Solar applications, set a partial review schedule for the two projects and docketed the applications for further investigation. A partial procedural schedule was set to begin the proceedings in each docket.

The IUB’s review will be conducted after the county’s process is complete.

The review process is expected to be extensive and controversial. A similar project for a utility-scale solar project near Coggon, to be developed by Clenera Energy in partnership with the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, was approved by the board of supervisors in January after a series of contentious public meetings.

Details of Linn County’s review process are as follows, as outlined by the county:

  • All utility-scale solar projects require an application to rezone the area to be used for the solar installation to (RE) Renewable Energy Overlay Zoning District.
  • Once an applicant submits a utility-scale solar application to Linn County Planning & Development, the review process begins. The process includes benchmark reviews from the Technical Review Committee, Planning & Development staff, and the Planning & Zoning Commission before any application is presented to the Board of Supervisors.
  • The review process is the same for all utility-scale solar applicants: Applicants must undergo a review by the Technical Review Committee (TRC), the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC), and three readings by the Board of Supervisors. These are public meetings. The TRC meeting is open to the public but is not a public hearing (no public comments are taken). The PZC meeting is a public hearing where the public can comment on the application.
  • The Planning & Zoning Commission must consider the Technical Review Committee’s findings and staff recommendation of the application, and must consider the proposed rezoning during at least one public meeting, before submitting its findings and recommendation of approval or denial on the application to the Board of Supervisors.
  • The Board of Supervisors will hold three public hearings for the rezoning request before making their final decision.
  • All recommendations, including the final decision by the Board of Supervisors, must be based on the development standards for utility-scale solar contained in Linn County’s Code of Ordinances section 107-117 (h).
  • Linn County will notify the applicant and surrounding property owners of the date and time of the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting and public hearing and invite them to attend.
  • The application documents submitted by Duane Arnold Solar LLC are available on Linn County’s website at