Solar S‪ite Tour

Darryl Hill, of Owatonna, loves a good trend as much as I do. Hill took part in the discussion concerning St. Charles' new solar power plant Monday. 

"That's such a mood." 

That's what my younger daughter says. Well, at least for now. I've started working the phrase into some of my conversations with her. Once that hits a critical mass, she'll stop saying it because it'll stop being cool and trendy.

You know, "Totally rad, foshizzle."

I can kill a trendy bit of slang like no one else. We can't all be June Cleaver talking "jive" on "Airplane!"

Up in smoke, folks

Tuesday's Stewartville City Council meeting included a vote to change the city's tobacco ordinance. You need to be 21 years old or older to buy tobacco products in Stewartville. 

No dip, no cigarettes, no stogies, no e-cigarette. 

When the Minnesota Legislature failed to pass "Tobacco 21" last session, the folks who are championing the T-21 movement at ClearWay Minnesota focused on the county and city level. That's where permits to sell tobacco are granted. 

Well, in Stewartville — not to mention Olmsted County, and the cities of Byron and Austin — you now need to be 21 to buy tobacco. 

A few weeks ago, I heard the T-21 talk at a Winona County Board meeting. I'd bet my bottom dollar the county passes T-21 within a month or so. The same night as the Stewartville meeting, the city of St. Charles heard a T-21 presentation. 

This is a trend, foshizzle. Like, totally. 

And that's how I wrote about it. I could have simply written a story about Stewartville passing a new ordinance. Nothing wrong with that. But the value-add to you, my gentle readers, is the perspective of how this fits into a larger narrative, a bigger movement across the region, the state and the nation.

Let the sun shine ...

Speaking of trends, have you heard about this "solar energy" thing that's been sweeping the nation? We get electricity from the sun. Like every day, even if it's overcast. 

For those of you who are hard-core Brian Todd fans – it's a short list, I'm sure – you're probably aware that I've been writing about solar power for nearly a decade going back to the early days when I wrote the Greenspace column. Well, from stories about the emerging laws on community solar gardens and the folks who had found ways to make residential solar affordable, the topic has grown and changed. 

Monday, I went to a meeting in St. Charles where several stakeholders talked about their parts in making a 2 megawatt solar plant in St. Charles – part of a larger 23 MW system located in 10 cities across three states – happen. 

I asked one of those stakeholders, Eric Udelhofen of One Energy Renewables, if these kinds of projects were going to become the new normal in large solar projects. Putting 2 MW here and 4.4 MW there to equal 20 MW or 100 MW is a lot different than plopping 100 MW on 1,200 acres all at one spot. 

Udelhofen gave me a "yes, and no" answer. It'll be part of the trend going forward, but for the time being, expect to see both kinds of solar projects. 

But one of the other panelists added that there's a different dynamic in getting local public support of each kind of project. A 2 MW site might have three or four neighbors whose concerns need to be met, and often some vegetative screening will do the trick.

But a project 50 MW or larger will go before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and possibly attract some torch-and-pitchfork toting opponents. 

I'll be curious to see which way this trend goes moving forward. 

Weather or not

Trends are more than just stories we follow because they have "legs." I've covered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' dredging plans for a few years now, but that's just an ongoing issue. Trends are something that start because of a change in how people do things, like view tobacco use or see a need for solar power, and generally impact people beyond the group you're writing about.

A good example is vaping. In just the past 10 weeks, we've published a host of stories on e-cigarettes and vaping in the Post Bulletin, several written in-house. Why? Well, like most trend stories, the issue matters to people, and we want to keep you informed. 

Speaking of trends, depending on when you're reading this today, it's possibly raining. A lot. Will you be seeing more weather stories in the coming days? Well, in my own trendy way, I'd say, "Foshizzle, mo' drizzle."

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.

What's your reaction?