Part of that is the summer cold I caught. Sniffling, coughing, scratchy throat. I’m probably violating my own HIPAA rights by talking about this, but whatever. We’re all friends here.
But the other part of it is I’ve had some big stories — those issues that keep me in bylines — over the past few months. After tackling the same few topics many times, I’m happy to take a swing at something I find truly interesting.
Let the sun shine in
Very soon, you’ll be reading a series of stories about solar power.
Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons. First, we see solar arrays popping up everywhere. From the megawatt-sized utility-scale solar to commercial-scale solar in the 50-kilowatt and higher range, to residential solar.
Second, it’s a regulatory issue. Counties are asking more questions and wondering what limits — if any — should be placed on solar installations. While the power production side of solar is more of a utilities issue, the space these arrays take up is a land-use issue and a neighbors getting along with neighbors issue, which is where counties and cities get involved.
There’s a huge financial impact from solar. People paying off their arrays get paid by the power companies to produce energy like they have their own little electricity source … because they do.
Environmental, or not?
And, of course, solar is an environmental issue. More solar means less reliance on coal or natural gas. Or even waste-to-energy, where they burn garbage to heat water and turn turbines.
But solar means eventually these large arrays full of toxic metals need to be decommissioned. Some people think fields full of solar panels aren’t pretty to look at, especially when you live next door to them.
Finally, there’s the whole “the sun doesn’t always shine” argument. That said, I haven’t met a single solar proponent who thinks it does, so that’s probably not the best anti-solar energy argument I’ve heard.
A new topic is fun
All these issues and more will be addressed.
Now, it’s not like I’ve never written about solar energy. For about seven years, I wrote the weekly Greenspace column before it was handed off to hardworking co-worker John Molseed’s capable hands.
But solar is an ever-evolving issue. Taking a new look at where we as a community in Southeast Minnesota stand — and where Minnesota as a whole stands — is important.
Besides, it’s nice to take a break from dairy farm battles, and even a small break when it comes to the brouhaha in Red Wing.
To take a really deep dive on an issue, though, means finding some spare time. Fortunately, this was a slow week in other regards. No city council meetings called my attention. The region’s county board agendas were relatively low key. And the school boards, for the most part, are either winding down for the year or being capably handled by hardworking reporter Jordan Shearer.
So, get ready to soak up some tales about the sun, folks. I promise an enlightening time.
Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.