Bowman County Commissioners recently approved a new solar ordinance for Bowman County. Bowman County Tax Director Dean Pearson said that the new ordinance was the first of its kind.
By Frank Turner
Bowman County Pioneer
“This is the first solar ordinance in Bowman County,” said Pearson. “Before, there wasn’t any kind of guidance for either residents or anybody doing business within the county.
The purpose of the ordinance is to provide guidance for rules and regulations so it treats everybody fairly in the future.”
Pearson continued to explain that the commissioners voted on the additional legislation because a company was potentially taking interest in Bowman regarding solar energy.
“There was a company that was looking to potentially put together something on solar energy in Bowman County, and, as a result, we didn’t have any kind of guidelines to go by, so therefore we put together an ordinance” he said. “But it was only because somebody had approached the county and said that they were interested in some type of solar project.”
As of now, no solar business has formally applied to operate in Bowman County, according to Pearson. He said that it’s likely that specific and detailed information wouldn’t be available until a business has gone through the entire application process.
According to Pearson, a committee set up by the Bowman zoning board created the ordinance.
“The committee’s job was to sit down and compare other zoning ordinances and come up with something that would be workable for the county,” he said. “[The committee’s] goal was to provide input and to put the information into the format of an ordinance and get it approved by the county commission.”
Major parts of the ordinance included application requirements for a Solar Energy System Siting Permit, visual impact protections, and avian and wildlife impact documentation.
Overall, Pearson said that it is tough to estimate the possible economic impact of an introduced solar project or business to Bowman County.
“Right now it’s really hard to tell at this point. Right now we don’t know the size of any incoming project,” he said. “Plus North Dakota itself doesn’t have a lot of solar. It’s so new that even the PSC in North Dakota doesn’t have a lot of regulation and there isn’t a lot of taxing directives that have come down as to how the tax on solar would be, whether it would be like wind or oil.
Pearson continued, “So we are at the front of the line and that’s why we wanted to put some regulation in place until something else came. But as far as impact on the county, it’s unknown at this stage what percentage would stay in the county and what percentage would go elsewhere.”