JEFFERSON — A large solar power farm proposed for a location just west of Jefferson has received unanimous approval from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, much to the pleasure of Jefferson County leaders.
In mid-December, Jefferson County officials shored up a document that served to more thoroughly address county concerns about noise, revenue streams and setbacks from adjacent properties for the proposed Badger State solar farm in the Town of Jefferson. The Jefferson County Executive Committee then forwarded this joint development agreement to the county’s full board of supervisors, which approved it unanimously.
At that point, all that remained for the 149-megawatt solar farm’s construction was approval from the state Public Service Commission. That was received Thursday.
“We’re pleased that the PSC has approved the application,” Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Schroeder said Tuesday, on behalf of county government.
“The benefits of this solar farm will include reduction in the carbon footprint through production of renewable energy, additional revenue annually to the county, as well as the towns involved.”
Schroeder said the farm will lead to guaranteed annual revenue for the owners of the land where it will be placed — west of the City of Jefferson, near County Highway Q and State Highway 89.
The Badger State Solar facility will utilize photovoltaic panels mounted on trackers that will rotate throughout the day to follow the sun, reaching a height of between 10 and 12 feet.
At the end of its useful life, expected in 40 years, the solar installation would be decommissioned and Ranger Power would be responsible for removing all equipment and returning the land to a state suitable for agricultural use.
During the PSC’s process, state and local leaders spoke in support of the project. Representatives of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce also noted that the project is expected to bring $100 million in private investment, along with new Utility Shared Revenue payments for Jefferson County and towns involved, including the Town of Jefferson.
Some residents of the area, however, have gone on record with concerns that there could be damage to land values and rural aesthetics after solar-generating panels are installed.
Ranger Power, a New York-based solar energy company focused on developing utility-scale solar projects in the Midwest, has been working with interested area farmers and landowners to develop Jefferson County’s Badger State Solar, which will be sited on approximately 1,000 acres of privately owned, relatively flat, open land.
The solar field will take advantage of the American Transmission Co. substation already located there, which minimizes the project’s footprint and cost, and avoids the need for long transmission lines.
The project, located between large population centers with high electrical demand — Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha on one side and Madison, Beloit and Janesville on the other — will produce enough electricity to meet the equivalent annual needs of about 20,000 homes, according to Dairyland Power Cooperative, the business that will be purchasing the farm’s power product.
Planners have said construction will begin no earlier than later this year, with commercial operation anticipated to start around 2023.
The solar project will generate new Utility Shared Revenue payments for the county and towns. These shared revenue payments will provide additional funds that can be used for schools, roads and other needs as determined by the towns and county. In a fiscal note attached to the resolution, it was stated that the shared revenue payments in lieu of taxes from the state of Wisconsin will exceed the amount of tax revenue lost.