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Solar company signs agreement for 1,000 acres in Skillman Bottoms

A solar company based in Minnesota has signed a memorandum of purchase agreement on more than 900 acres of what has been marketed as one of the prime large sites for industrial development in the state, although the company is keeping its intentions for the site close to its chest.

Rolling Hills Solar, LLC, signed a memorandum of purchase agreement with Agrifutures, LLC and its sole member, Edward “Ted” Bowne, for approximately 918.59 acres in Skillman Bottoms on October 2, 2020, but the paperwork was only recorded in the county clerk’s office on March 17 of this year.

The solar company also signed a land lease and solar easement for 102.49 acres on three lots in the same area, with property owners Harold Wayne and Mickey Newton, on August 20, 2020.

A search of public records indicates that Rolling Hills Solar, LLC organized on June 22, 2020, but it’s one of many smaller entities under the control of National Grid Renewables, a company whose website says it “develops, owns and operates large-scale renewable energy assets across the United States, including solar, wind and energy storage.”

The more than 1,000 acres the company now has purchase or options on have been marketed by local and state economic development officials as one of the prime sites for a potential industry, with its proximity to river, rail, and highway, in addition to being a large, undisturbed property with more than 900 acres under one owner.

Hancock County Industrial Foundation Director Mike Baker said that not a lot is known about what might be planned for the property, but that he had been informed that it should be removed from the state economic development cabinet’s list of actively available properties in the county.

Whether it’s sold or just being optioned sometimes depends on who you ask or where you look.
“I was told it was an option and that option has not been executed as yet,” he said. “If that option is executed then we’ll obviously certainly look forward to working with the new owners.”

When contacted about the memorandum of purchase agreement, attorney Jesse Mountjoy, who represents Agrifutures, LLC, initially said the agreement is simply whatever the paperwork is called, but later said it doesn’t necessarily mean the land must be sold. He otherwise declined to provide any additional details of the filing.

The agreement filed with county clerk Trina Ogle is specifically called “memorandum of purchase agreement” and seems to indicate that a sale is the only option available.

“Seller and Purchaser acknowledge that they have entered into the Purchase Agreement, pursuant to which buyer has agreed to buy the Property from Seller and Seller has agreed to sell the Property to Buyer,” the agreement says.

No pricing is included in the document, but it does describe the seven total parcels that add up to the 918.59 acres.

More information is included in the lease agreement and solar easement, stating that the initial term of the lease is for five years, ending on August 19, 2025, but it will be automatically extended for two years for a “construction period,” and automatically extended again for 25 years once commercial operation begins.

In what is one of the few real hints about what Rolling Hills Solar might be planning for the properties, the agreement also says that the lessee “has the exclusive right to use the premises for commercial solar energy purposes…”

With approximately 1,000 acres of flat ground under its control, one might assume that the company could build a solar farm, although with no official word it’s officially unknown what might be coming.

A voicemail and email to National Grid Renewables weren’t returned.

By Dave Taylor

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