City of Madison and Dane County Launch 2021 Solar Programs

City of Madison and Dane County Launch 2021 Solar Programs

On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the City of Madison and Dane County announced the start of this year’s MadiSUN Solar Energy Programs. The MadiSUN programs aim to expand access to local renewable energy and include initiatives and grants that assist residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations with onsite solar electric installations.

The MadiSUN Solar Group Buy is for Dane County homeowners looking to install solar on their rooftops. The Solar for Business program provides project grants and consulting services for Madison businesses interested in installing solar electric systems. And the Backyard Solar program offers up to $10,000 in grants for affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations seeking to install solar electric systems at their facilities in the City of Madison.

The Group Buy program, now in its sixth year, will expand this year to offer solar installations to homeowners across Dane County. The Group Buy has spurred approximately $2.38 million in clean energy investments since 2016 and has added over 800 kilowatts of renewable electricity to the community’s electric grid. To date, nearly 200 local homes have gone solar through MadiSUN.

“Now in its sixth year, the MadiSUN program offers a way for residents, businesses, nonprofits, and affordable housing providers to go solar,” said Stacie Reece, the Sustainability Program Coordinator for the City of Madison. “Every rooftop solar installation contributes to the City of Madison’s goal of 100% renewable energy and helps reduce carbon emissions.”

In addition to expanding the Group Buy to all of Dane County, the program will also expand the number of solar contractors. MadiSUN has partnered with Full Spectrum Solar, Midwest Solar Power, and Arch Electric to ensure residents have access to reputable, experienced contractors for their solar installations.

“With the program’s expansion this year, we wanted to ensure that homeowners throughout the county had multiple options when it came to solar,” stated Sam Dunaiski, Program Director for MadiSUN. “Residents in rural portions of Dane County have different needs than residents in urban or suburban areas. Homeowners will now have access to more solar contractors and the different materials and services they provide.”

The Group Buy will also provide multiple options for homeowners looking to finance their solar systems. Low-interest loans for solar arrays will be available through greenpenny bank and Clean Energy Credit Union.

“We can offer Dane County residents fast, easy, and affordable financing for their solar projects,” said Jason MacDuff, Vice President of greenpenny. “Whether the appeal of solar is its climate stewardship, its economic benefits, or both, greenpenny’s mission is to finance a sustainable tomorrow.”

The Solar for Business program, currently in its fourth year, will offer grants to Madison-based businesses choosing to install onsite solar arrays. The program has facilitated solar on 16 businesses across the city for a total capacity of more than 750 kilowatts of renewable energy.

The Backyard Solar program will continue to offer grants for solar projects with affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations in Madison. The program approved seven grants during its first two years of operation. These seven projects will result in nearly 550 kilowatts of solar energy, enough to power roughly 100 households.

Movin’ Out, an affordable housing provider based in Madison, won a Backyard grant in 2020 to install a 100-kilowatt solar array at the Ace Apartments. The facility will provide affordable housing access to children, veterans, the disabled, and their families.

“The opportunity to participate in MadiSUN’s Backyard Solar program helps us achieve our goals for green building to provide the healthiest possible environments for the people and communities we serve,” said Kathryne Auerback, Executive Director of Movin’ Out. “The more we are able to invest in renewable energy and environmentally sustainable building now, the greater the returns will be in the long run.”

Residents can receive a complimentary solar assessment by visiting madisunsolar.com and filling out the “I’m Interested” form. Applications for the Group Buy program must be submitted by August 31, 2021.  The application deadline for the Backyard Solar Grant is September 1, 2021, and applications for the Solar for Business grant are open until December 31, 2021.

 

About MadiSUN

MadiSUN facilitates solar power installation for residents, businesses, and nonprofits located within the City of Madison. Promotional videos can be accessed by visiting MadiSUN’s YouTube channel. More can be found at www.madisunsolar.com.

About RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles in Wisconsin. RENEW Wisconsin is contracted by the City of Madison to administer the MadiSUN programs. More information can be found at www.renewwisconsin.org.

With PSC Approval, Alliant Set to Become Wisconsin’s Premier Solar-Powered Utility

With PSC Approval, Alliant Set to Become Wisconsin’s Premier Solar-Powered Utility

First round of solar farms to be operational in 2023

The Public Service Commission’s approval today of Alliant Energy’s proposed buildout of new solar power represents the most significant advance yet towards a zero-carbon future in Wisconsin.

With the Commission’s ruling under its belt, Alliant has secured all the necessary permits to set in motion the first wave of a massive solar deployment across Wisconsin. Totaling 675 megawatts (MW), the first six solar farms approved today will take Alliant two-thirds of the way toward its ambitious goal to integrate more than a gigawatt of solar capacity into its base generation portfolio over the next four years.  (Note: a gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts).

When this initial wave of projects is fully operational in 2023, roughly 13% of the electricity sold to Alliant customers will come from a solar farm. Indeed, Alliant is on course to own and operate almost one-half of the state’s solar capacity by 2024, a remarkable percentage given that it accounts for only 16% of the state’s electricity sales.

“We salute Alliant for committing to this bold pivot towards zero-carbon power generated in Wisconsin,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Heather Allen. “We are hopeful the Public Service Commission’s decision will encourage other utilities to go big on solar power.”

Allen said: “Alliant’s substantial investment in clean energy will produce savings that will be passed along to customers over the lifetimes of these projects. But when you factor in the other benefits from solar power–the job creation opportunities, the stream of revenues for host landowners and their communities, and fewer pollutants discharged into our air and groundwater–this build-out is very much in the public interest.”

In March 2021, Alliant submitted an application for authority to build and operate a second wave of solar power, another six farms totaling 414 MW. Approval of that application would increase Alliant’s solar portfolio to 1,089 MW.

“A solar build-out of this magnitude would have been unthinkable five years ago,” Allen said. “Only a handful of utilities then were thinking about replacing their aging coal plants with carbon-free energy sources like solar. But with these two back-to-back solar applications, WPL appears to be off to the races.”

Once operational, the solar farms listed in the tables below would account for more than 20% of Alliant’s electricity sales in Wisconsin. What is more, the output from these 12 solar farms would surpass generation totals now achieved from Wisconsin’s wind power projects.

Alliant Energy solar farms – 6680-CE-182
Approved April 22, 2022
Solar farm Location (county) Capacity (in MW) Year online
Crawfish River Jefferson 75 2022
Grant County Grant 200 2022
North Rock Sheboygan 50 2023
Onion River Rock 150 2023
Richland County Richland 50 2022
Wood County Wood 150 2023
Total 675  

 

 

Alliant Energy solar farms – 6680-CE-183
Application filed March 31, 2021
Solar farm Location (county) Capacity (in MW) Year online
Albany Green 50 2023
Beaver Dam Dodge 50 2023
Cassville Grant 50 2023
Paddock Rock 65 2023
Springfield Dodge 100 2022
Wautoma Waushara 99 2023
Total 414  

 

So why is Alliant working so hard to integrate a gigawatt of solar capacity into its generation mix? The short answer is that the utility has determined that building solar power today is more cost-effective than prolonging the life of its coal units. This realization came after a thorough analysis that compared the adequacy of its existing generating fleet with the operational savings and flexibility Alliant could achieve from a massive solar build-out.

Here’s how Alliant summarized the conclusions of its modeling work to justify its latest application.

“Based on this result, {Alliant} developed its Clean Energy Blueprint resource plan, its preferred plan to benefit customers, which includes: retiring the Edgewater 5 generating unit by the end of  2022; retiring Columbia 1 and Columbia 2 by the end of 2023 and 2024, respectively; serving customers with capacity and energy from 1,089 MW of new utility-scale solar generation installed in Wisconsin by the end of 2023, and installing distributed solar and battery storage resources in the communities {Alliant} serves.

The PSC is expected to rule on its second application in early 2022.

Third Party Solar Financing Takes Center Stage

Third Party Solar Financing Takes Center Stage

After simmering on the proverbial back burner for nearly two years, the third-party financing issue relating to customer-sited solar power has been thrust back into the public spotlight as pressure builds to resolve the legal questions surrounding it.

The reemergence of this issue can be traced to two parallel developments. The first is a Public Service Commission (PSC) proceeding moving toward a ruling settling the legality of third-party-owned solar systems serving individual retail customers. The second is a lawsuit recently filed by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Portage County Circuit Court, challenging the PSC’s authority to regulate the financing of behind-the-meter systems that serve host customers only.

The PSC proceeding began in March 2019 when Eagle Point Solar, a Dubuque-based solar contractor, filed a complaint against We Energies for blocking the installation of rooftop arrays serving the City of Milwaukee. In its complaint, Eagle Point contends that PSC Chapter 119, which regulates the interaction between small-scale electricity producers and the utility grid, does not give We Energies the right to deny interconnection to a customer based on how the generating equipment is financed. According to We Energies, however, a third party owner of the equipment that supplies electricity to one customer under contract should be regulated as a public utility.

Following an extended period of legal maneuvering, the PSC set in motion a process for investigating Eagle Point’s complaint (Docket 9300-DR-104). In so doing, it expanded the scope of the proceeding to consider the public utility question that led to the interconnection denial. When the parties finished entering evidence into the hearing record, the PSC opened a public comment window on the proceeding, which ended on February 23rd.

Supporters of third-party financing sprang into action, led by RENEW. To illustrate the breadth and depth of support for opening up the solar market in this fashion, RENEW circulated an action alert encouraging those who care about this issue to submit comments supporting Eagle Point’s position. Networks such as Wisconsin Climate Table, Wisconsin Health Practitioners for Climate Action, and our own solar contractor e-mail list helped circulate RENEW’s alert beyond our own activist base. At the same time, organizations such as 350 Madison and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) asked their activists and members to post comments on the PSC website.

As a result of our combined efforts, a total of 336 individuals and organizations weighed with their views on the Eagle Point matter. Of that, 327 comments expressed support for opening the market to allow third-party ownership of solar electric systems in Wisconsin. In that overwhelming display of support, several themes prevailed, including the following:

  • Third-party financing is already expressly authorized in 28 states;
  • Allowing third-party-owned solar systems is consistent with Wisconsin case law;
  • The threat of being regulated as a public utility discourages businesses from providing solar power generated onsite to retail customers through leases and sale agreements;
  • Third-party financing would make solar power affordable to low-to-moderate income households and nonprofit entities such as schools;
  • Expanding solar financing options would help communities reduce their reliance on harmful fossil energy sources; and
  • Expanding solar financing options would invigorate local economies.

These arguments track closely to those articulated by Wisconsin solar contractors and consultants in a March 2019 filing urging the Commission to approve Eagle Point’s petition. Similar to our efforts during the comment period, RENEW shaped the themes in that statement and pulled together a coalition of market actors to demonstrate support for third-party financed solar energy. In the intervening two years, Eagle Point Solar and the City of Milwaukee labored to amass a set of facts and legal arguments to support a finding that WEPCO’s action was unlawful.

The merits of this case are clear-cut, as are the regulatory remedies. Other states that regulate electric utilities have taken steps to affirm the legality of third-party-financed solar, most notably Iowa, which did so in 2014, the result of a long and expensive legal fight waged by Eagle Point. In contrast to Iowa, the State of Wisconsin has allowed this issue to languish for many years without resolution.

But with the filing of briefs from parties on March 10th, the Eagle Point proceeding has finally reached the home stretch. The strong outpouring of public support for third-party financed solar tells us that a policy call from the PSC is long overdue.

In a brief representing RENEW and other solar advocates, we urged the PSC to take the following actions:

  • Order WEPCO to interconnect the City of Milwaukee solar projects, regardless of how those projects are financed;
  • Clarify that a utility may not deny interconnection based on project ownership, and
  • Clarify that third-party owners of customer-sited distributed generation are not “public utilities” under Wisconsin law.

RENEW would like to thank Eagle Point Solar and the City of Milwaukee for leading this crucially important regulatory battle, ELPC for drafting a particularly persuasive legal brief on behalf of clean energy advocates, and the 327 commenters who affirmed their desire for an expanded solar marketplace free of utility interference.

Texas shows we need more renewable energy, not less

Texas shows we need more renewable energy, not less

The unfolding situation in Texas remains dire. The grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) first warned of rolling blackouts on Sunday, February 14, 2021.  The blackouts and widespread power outages lasted for days in the Lone Star state amidst some of the harshest winter weather in years.  Millions of people were left without power and dozens perished.

Now just ten days out from the onset of the crisis, water contamination and shortages (resulting from frozen and broken pipes) continue to threaten the health and welfare of Texas residents.

Immediately preceding the energy crisis, a powerful winter storm blanketed the southern Plains with freezing rain and snow, followed by record low temperatures.  Frigid temperatures had a stranglehold on the central U.S. for two straight weeks, extending from Canada to Mexico. Many parts of Texas and the South rely on electricity as their primary source of heat, as opposed to gas, propane, or wood, which are more commonly used in the northern United States. The prolonged cold snap created a high demand for natural gas, for both heating and electricity generation around the region, triggering an upsurge in electricity consumption.

Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong

As demand skyrocketed, supply plummeted. Even before the winter weather moved in ERCOT had nearly 14 gigawatts (GW) of electric-generating capacity offline for maintenance. As other generating sources were shuttered, ERCOT was left with as much as 34 GWs of electric production offline. This periodically amounted to 30-42% of ERCOT’s total electric capacity.

Unfortunately, the outages gave rise to a disinformation campaign that attempted to implicate frozen wind turbines as the principal cause of the power outages. This narrative is patently false. While some wind turbines were frozen and unable to produce electricity, the cold and ice had a far more disruptive effect on thermal plants.

Operators at ERCOT and researchers identified the critical failure of natural gas to generate electricity and heat during the crisis.  Nearly 50% of ERCOT’s natural gas generators were offline, either a result of frozen lines or diminished supplies as demand for the fuel soared.

Wind, natural gas, and other energy sources need to be weatherized

In fact, renewable energy generation facilities played a key role in keeping the lights on.  According to ERCOT, wind power output exceeded forecasted generation numbers during the blackouts, even with the icing of turbines. At times, solar generation has also exceeded output. Wind turbines would have done better if they had used heating technology as Sweden does, to prevent icing and keep turbines generating power in extreme cold.  Using heating carbon-fiber technology similar to aircraft, Swedish maintenance workers add a thin layer of material to the wings of the turbines that can be automatically heated can prevent ice before it forms.

The bottom line is that our electricity grid and all types of power generation are vulnerable to extreme weather events.  We need to plan for these events and invest in grid resilience and weatherization to prevent disasters like this from repeating.

There is no single cause for the situation currently unfolding in Texas, and no silver bullet for preventing a repeat situation. A combination of record demand due to the prolonged cold temperatures, and generators not equipped to function in very cold temperatures are responsible for the rolling blackouts now plaguing the state.

Planning and preparing for extreme weather has to be part of the conversation

Renewables are reliable sources of energy from Texas to Antarctica. Even during extreme weather events, wind and solar can function when traditional energy sources have gone offline. More renewable energy sources, in more locations, will diversify our grid and make it less susceptible to the forces of nature and the market.  Microgrids and energy storage are important tools to help shore up the reliability and safety of our grid.

Extreme weather events will continue to complicate our lives and strain our power grids over the foreseeable future. By incorporating more sources of renewable energy, we can reduce problems and increase reliability in our electric grid.

RENEW Wisconsin 2021 Summit Honors Renewable Energy Leaders

RENEW Wisconsin 2021 Summit Honors Renewable Energy Leaders

As part of its tenth annual Renewable Energy Summit, RENEW Wisconsin will recognize individuals and organizations who have made significant and lasting advances in renewable energy development here in Wisconsin.

Titled “Building the Clean Energy Mosaic,” this year’s Summit will be hosted virtually over three days from Tuesday, January 12th through Thursday, January 14th, 2021. The theme of this year’s event, “Building the Clean Energy Mosaic,” will highlight the diversity of technologies, people, and scale needed to shape our clean energy future.

 

Roster of 2020 awardees

  • Renewable Energy Business of the Year
    • Northwind Solar Cooperative, Amherst
  • Renewable Energy Catalysts of the Year:
    • Sid Sczygelski & Ali Wolf, Aspirus Health, Wausau
    • Charles Hua, Madison
  • Renewable Energy Champion of the Year
    • Oregon School District
  • Renewable Energy Pioneer of the Year
    • Dane County
  • Renewable Energy Project of the Year
    • Two Creeks Solar Park, Manitowoc County
    • NextEra Energy Resources (developer)
    • Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (joint owner)
    • Madison Gas and Electric (joint owner)

Renewable Energy Business of the Year

Northwind Solar Cooperative has been a fixture in Central Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace since 2007, operating principally in the residential and small commercial segments. Throughout its history, Northwind has been acutely conscious of the value of community ties. Northwind’s PV systems are a common sight in Amherst. The company has operated the Grow Solar – Central Wisconsin group purchase program for four straight years, designing and installing more than a megawatt of solar capacity for 168 residential customers. After the company reorganized itself as a worker-owned cooperative structure, Northwind committed to building a new headquarters building in Amherst Business Park that showcases its talents and services. With 44 kW of PV capacity and multiple battery configurations, Northwind’s new headquarters building invites prospective customers to pursue solar + storage as the energy package of the future.

 

Renewable Energy Catalysts of the Year

Aspirus Health is a health care organization serving much of central and northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with 10 hospitals, 50+ clinics, labs and other service-providing facilities within its system. In 2018 Aspirus launched a systemwide initiative to identify and implement strategies for slashing its energy overhead and scaling back its carbon footprint. Sid Sczygelski, chief financial officer of Aspirus, chairs this initiative, while Sustainability Director Ali Wolf directs and coordinates this ambitious undertaking. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions systemwide 80% by 2030. Going into 2021, Sczygelski, Wolf and the Aspirus sustainability team have made great progress to date. Aspirus has integrated into its buildings more than 900 kilowatts of solar PV on its rooftops, saving more than $600,000/year in energy expenses. In 2021, Aspirus plans to double its use of solar energy systemwide and complete construction on its most energy-efficient facility yet, a clinic in Wausau.


In 2017, students and staff at Madison West High School started work on a campaign to power their school with a rooftop solar PV system. That year, Charles Hua, then a junior, took the helm of West Green Club and launched a fundraising and outreach campaign that blossomed into one of the largest youth-led sustainability efforts in Wisconsin. From June 2017 through 2019, the West Green Club raised nearly $90,000 from staff, students, parents and local foundations, accounting for nearly 50% of the cost of their 128 kW solar PV system. Installed last summer by Westphal Electric, Madison West’s solar system is now the largest array supplying electricity to a Madison Metropolitan School District building. The example set by Hua and West Green Club helped inspire the school district to adopt a 100% renewable goal for all of its facilities. Hua is now a junior at Harvard University.

 

Renewable Energy Champion of the Year


Long a leader in pursuing solar power for its operations, Oregon School District took advantage of an opportunity in 2018 to push the envelope on sustainability at its new Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg. Collaborating with HGA’s Madison office, an architectural and engineering design firm, the school district financed and saw to completion the first net zero energy public school in Wisconsin. Equipped with a 646 kW rooftop solar array, a ground-source heat pump system and onsite battery storage, Forest Edge is an all-electric building. There is no gas connection to the school. Completed in the fall of 2020, Forest Edge represents a quantum leap in capturing, controlling and maximizing the economic value of sunshine and ground temperatures to heat, cool and power a building where many people congregate.

 

Renewable Energy Pioneer of the Year


Impatient with federal and state government inaction on climate change, Dane County decided to roll up it sleeves and get to work, starting in 2017 with the creation of the Office of Climate Change and Energy. The County’s approach to reducing fossil fuel use has been aggressive and remarkably systematic for a local government. A number of these actions bore fruit in 2020. These include:

  1. Throwing the switch on a biogas processing plant in April that converts gas from landfill waste and cow manure into a pipeline-grade renewable fuel;
  2. Releasing a Climate Action Plan, also in April, containing recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions countywide 45% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050;
  3. Partnering with Madison Gas and Electric to host a 9-megawatt solar array on airport property and purchase the output from that project, under a long-term contract; and
  4. Purchasing property in the Town of Cottage Grove to host a larger solar array that will enable the County to offset all of its electricity usage with zero-emission power.

Renewable Energy Project of the Year


Developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources in Manitowoc County, the 150-megawatt Two Creeks Solar Park was energized last November. It is now the largest power plant in the state of Wisconsin that is fueled by the sun. Jointly owned by Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric, Two Creeks effectively doubled solar generation capacity in Wisconsin, and its output will equal the electrical consumption of 33,000 residential households. Two Creeks was the first solar power plant to receive approval from the Public Service Commission, and the first to be approved as a utility-owned asset. Seeing Two Creeks to completion opens the door to a new chapter in electric power, one highlighted by the emergence of solar power as the cleanest, more affordable and least risky supply option available to Wisconsin electric providers.


This year’s summit program will also draw attention to other milestones and notable achievements in 2020, including the following:

  • The Public Service Commission approved two large solar farms—Badger State Solar and Paris Solar—that will add 349 MW of solar power to Wisconsin’s electric generation portfolio;
  • Madison Gas and Electric completed two smaller solar farms in its service territory, with a combined capacity of 14 MW, to supply several customers under contract and expand its shared solar program;
  • Grants from RENEW’s Solar for Good program resulted in 27 new solar installations across the state totaling 1,265 kW of operating capacity.
  • Two Eau Claire high schools—Memorial and North—celebrated the completion of their 126 kW solar arrays supported by Solar on Schools, a joint venture between the Couillard Solar Foundation and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
  • Eagle Point Solar installed 400 kW(AC) of PV capacity, serving four City of La Crosse-owned buildings.

 

First PSC-approved solar farm up and running

First PSC-approved solar farm up and running

The Two Creeks Solar Park, located in Manitowoc County, was energized last week, becoming the state’s largest generating station powered by the sun. Developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy, Two Creeks is jointly owned by two Wisconsin electric utilities: Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). WPS owns and operates a 100 megawatt (MW) share of the 150 MW power plant, while MGE has the remaining 50 MW share.

Located next to the Point Beach Nuclear Plant, Two Creeks effectively doubles the amount of solar generating capacity in Wisconsin to 300 MW, and will, over the next six months, produce more electricity than the combined output from all other existing solar systems in Wisconsin. Expected to produce more than 300,000,000 megawatt-hours a year, Two Creeks will generate about one-half of one percent of the state’s overall supply of electricity, which is the equivalent of what 33,000 residences consume annually.

Along with the 300 MW Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County, Two Creeks received approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) in April 2019. These two were the pioneering solar farm proposals that navigated through the PSC’s power plant siting process and won approval from the agency. At the same meeting, the PSC granted a joint request from WPS and MGE to acquire Two Creeks.

Since then, the PSC has given the green light to two more solar farms totaling 249 MW in capacity, including NextEra Energy’s 100 MW Point Beach Solar Farm next door to Two Creeks. Point Beach Solar is under construction and should be completed in the fall of 2021.

Construction work on Two Creeks commenced on August 2019, kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony that drew Gov. Tony Evers and the two utility ceos. Governor Evers’ appearance came less than a week after he issued Executive Order 38, articulating a goal of “ensuring all electricity consumed within the State of Wisconsin is 100% carbon-free by 2050.”

Building Two Creeks was no small undertaking. It involved punching thousands of posts into the ground to support horizontal tracking systems spreading across 800 acres of relatively flat terrain. Mounted on these rotating poles are more than 500,000 panels that follow the sun as it crosses the sky going east to west. Between the first rays of sunlight and the last ones before sunset, these panels soak in the sunshine and convert it to electricity.

A plant like Two Creeks will begin displacing higher-cost power at the moment it is energized, and these savings will grow significantly over the course of its 30-to-50-year life. True, the utilities will need to recover the cost of building the solar farm, somewhere in the vicinity of $195 million. But the savings utilities expect to reap from avoided fossil fuel purchases and pollution control expenditures will more than outweigh their investment in a zero-carbon generation source. Seen in this light, large-scale solar is indisputably the most cost-effective supply option that an electric utility can pursue going forward.

The benefits from Two Creeks extend beyond ratepayer savings. Manitowoc County and the Town of Two Creeks, the jurisdictions hosting the solar farm, expect to reap a combined $600,000 in local aids each year while the project remains in service. That number grows to $18,000,000 over the course of 30 years, which is the projected minimum lifespan of Two Creeks.

Solar is a noncombustible energy resource that does not emit any gaseous emissions or particulates when converted to electricity. Deploying solar at the scale of Two Creeks will capture significant public health and air quality benefits by avoiding emissions that are associated with conventional fossil generation plants. In another PSC proceeding involving a 15O MW solar farm in eastern Wisconsin, the developer anticipates annual emissions reductions in the following categories of pollutants: (1) nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 195,000 pounds; (2) methane (CH4) by 20,000 pounds; (3) nitrous oxide (N2O) by 5,000 pounds; and (4) carbon dioxide (CO2) by 405 million pounds.

Decarbonizing the state’s fleet of power plants is also a job creation strategy. The PSC estimates that somewhere between 200 and 300 jobs were created during the project’s construction window. It’s quite likely that many of the workers involved in the building of Two Creeks are now hard at work constructing the adjoining Point Beach solar farm.

In the annals of Wisconsin electric utility history, Two Creeks represents a noteworthy milestone, as the first solar farm to clear the PSC’s power plant review process and become a valuable addition to the state’s portfolio of power plants. And it took only 18+ months from the crossing of the regulatory finish line for Two Creeks to start sending power into the grid.

Two Creeks can also be viewed as the lead entry in a parade of large solar farms seeking to cross the same regulatory finish line and proceed to construction and completion. Looking out over the next 12 months, the PSC will review and make decisions on six solar farm applications totaling 1,150 MW (see table below).

Project name Developer County Capacity

(in MW)

Anticipated  decision date
Paris Invenergy Kenosha 200 11/2020
Wood County Savion Wood 150 12/2020
Grant County NextEra Energy Grant 200 4/2021
Onion River Ranger Power Sheboygan 150 5/2021
Darien Invenergy Walworth/

Rock

250 7/2021
Apple River National Grid Polk 100 9/2021
Springfield National Grid Dodge 100 9/2021

 

Within that same 12-month window, we expect two more PSC-approved solar farms—Badger Hollow I (150 MW) and Point Beach (100 MW) to cross the finish line and begin generating electricity.

What we’re seeing here is the emergence of a new resource paradigm that is ushering in a major wave of public works construction across the state. As this transition unfolds, solar power will become widely recognized as a linchpin in the state’s economy, extending through this decade and beyond.