Solar Panels Considered for Correctional Facility in Plymouth

2:47 pm | Friday May 7th 2021

The Plymouth Planning Commission recommended the approval of 1,300 solar panels for the Hennepin County Adult Correctional Facility in Plymouth.

The panels are glare-free and are expected to produce 600,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. No trees would be damaged when the panels were installed.

If the measure is approved by the council, construction can begin immediately.


The applicant requests a change to the site plan to allow the installation of floor-mounted solar modules. The plan is for 1,300 ground-mounted solar panels to be placed in the field south of the Hennepin County Adult Correctional Facility within the existing ten-foot chain-link fence area. The solar panels would be about 100 feet from the southern property line and about 500 feet from the eastern property line. The panels are mounted on a steel and aluminum shelf structure that is approximately three meters above the slope. The installation must not exceed a maximum height of ten feet above the slope.

The panels are arranged in rows from east to west and do not move. Some rows of solar panels are connected to an inverter, which is connected by a directionally drilled underground line. The proposed solar panels would not produce glare as solar panels are specifically built not to reflect sunlight but to absorb as much as possible. This is achieved by a glass that is microtextured and lightly colored to be anti-reflective.

The area is being planted with a native pollinator-friendly seed mix that benefits insects and bird species. The applicant has stated that, in his experience in Minnesota, he has never killed a bird on any of his projects. When reviewing a research study conducted in 10 photovoltaic solar panels (20 MW projects) over a 13 year period in California and Nevada, it found that the total estimate of bird deaths per megawatt per year averaged two birds per year amounts. The proposed solar panel is a 0.5 MW project, a much smaller project, and birds are less likely to die.

Outdoor lighting, trees, landscape, or utilities are not changed. The proposed floor-mounted solar modules do not generate any sound. There would be no further external changes to the building or the site.

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