JEFFERSON — After addressing last-minute concerns about the project’s insurance, and how the facility will be decommissioned in future decades were addressed, the Crawfish River Solar project took another step closer to realization.
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday entered into a joint development agreement that moves the $50 million project forward.
The JDA was made among Crawfish River Solar LLC, Jefferson County and the Town of Jefferson, where the facility would be located.
Specifically, the proposed site is just south of State Highway 18 between County Highways G and Q, west of the City of Jefferson.
Crawfish River Solar LLC has been seeking to develop, construct and operate an up-to-75 megawatt solar photovoltaic electrical generating facility with necessary associated facilities, such as underground power collection lines, access roads, operating and maintenance facilities, electrical substations and overhead transmission line connections.
The facility is anticipated to be operational by late 2022 and Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said ground could be broken for the project in the third quarter of this year. Crawfish River Solar representative Megan Hakes confirmed the approximate time of groundbreaking.
The large project will be located on 450 acres that was secured through voluntary negotiations with local landowners. A regulation football field is about 1.32 acres by comparison.
“The project will be capable of providing enough clean, locally generated electricity to power more than 10,000 Wisconsin homes,” said a media release from Crawfish River Solar, a division of Chicago-based Ranger Power.
Earlier in 2020, Wisconsin-based Alliant Energy announced an agreement to purchase and operate the facility once the project is fully constructed.
According to Jefferson County officials, Crawfish River agreed to enter into the JDA with the county and town to address impacts created by the construction and operation of the facility.
The JDA ratified unanimously Tuesday by the county board was negotiated with input from its executive committee, which included public comment, as well as input from the town.
Items addressed in the document include setback, plan review, transportation impact, drainage impact, vegetation management, noise parameters, land use studies, revenue, fiscal impacts and how the project’s life will end.
Discussing parameters for decommissioning the facility, Jefferson County Corporation Counsel J. Blair Ward said, “Decommissioning was a big deal on this project. Decommissioning will be looked at regularly.”
“Crawfish River Solar is designed to generate clean power for Wisconsin for 30 years or more,” the company said. “At the end of project life, facilities will be removed, and the land will be restored for agricultural use.”
The executive committee met Feb. 24 and recommended forwarding Tuesday night’s resolution and attached JDA to the county board. The actions authorize Wehmeier to enter into agreement with Crawfish River Solar to construct and operate the facility.
As part of a fiscal note attached to the resolution, which was approved unanimously by the board, Jefferson County and the town will no longer receive property tax revenue on the land used for the solar facility. However, both entities will receive payments in lieu of taxes from the state in the form of shared utility tax revenue, which will exceed the amount of lost tax revenue.
“The project will be a significant source of new local tax revenue with $125,000 per year expected in new shared revenue for the Town of Jefferson and $175,000 per year for Jefferson County,” Crawfish River Solar representatives said.
According to Crawfish River Solar, other benefits to the community, environment and local economy of the project will include leased land payments that will provide income diversification for local farmers, while protecting and preserving agricultural land for future generations.
The site will feature grass and seed mixes below panels and within the site that will help build soil nutrients and reduce fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide use. The facility will create possible opportunities for grazing and there will be employment opportunities.
Reduced stormwater runoff and soil erosion from land hosting solar panels can improve downstream water quality, according to Crawfish River officials.