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New federal tariffs won't affect Bemidji solar project much, planner says

BEMIDJI—The Trump administration's decision last week to hike taxes on imported solar panels won't have much of an effect on a planned Bemidji-area solar farm, one of the project's chief planners said.

Bemidji Area Schools, Bemidji State University, and Sanford Bemidji are in preliminary talks with Wayzata-based National Renewable Solutions to build an 8-10 megawatt solar farm here that could shave some money off their utility bills and generate thousands of renewable energy credits. The 30 percent tax bump this year would increase the project's total cost by 12-15 percent, according to Patrick Pelstring, the energy company's president and CEO, but that was factored into a late-December preliminary cost estimate from a contractor who anticipated the White House's move.

"It shouldn't have anything more than a nominal effect at this stage," Pelstring told the Pioneer. "We don't think that'll slow us down."

Pelstring declined to say what the estimated cost for the project was, or which contractor produced it. Most of the project's particulars are still up in the air, but Pelstring and other company staffers have narrowed the number of potential sites for the farm from 14 to five, he said.

The company expects to complete a feasibility study for the project in February.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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