Solar project

A Grant County Solar Energy Center is being proposed by New Era Energy for an area along U.S. 61, between Lancaster and Tennyson, Wis.

LANCASTER, Wis. — A wholesale power generation company seeks to construct an 800- to 1,000-acre solar array in Grant County.

With an anticipated in-service date of 2021, the Grant County Solar Energy Center would generate up to 200 megawatts of energy and represent one of the state’s largest utility-scale arrays.

NextEra Energy Resources, of Juno Beach, Fla., is overseeing construction of the $250 million to $350 million project, which will be owned by a company subsidiary.

Project director Toni Darwish said southwest Wisconsin has some of the best solar resources in the state.

“The topography of the land is better suited for solar installation, and from a network transmission perspective, there is existing capacity for the project to tie into,” she said.

Panels would be located within a project boundary of 1,500 to 2,000 acres — the majority in Potosi Township on either side of U.S. 61. A section of the array might be located in Harrison Township.

An electric substation would be constructed south of the project area, which links to the existing Potosi-Hillman 138-kilovolt line. The company has not decided to which entity — for example, a cooperative or utility company — the energy would be sold.

The project area encompasses properties owned by 10 to 15 landowners, and their interest also made the site ideal for development, Darwish said.

Most have voluntarily signed lease agreements with NextEra Energy, which does not hold eminent domain rights in Wisconsin.

The company also would compensate adjoining and nearby property owners who might be affected by the array. Darwish said the effects would be primarily visual, but drivers and aircraft pilots should not notice any glint or glare.

Project leaders expect Wisconsin’s utility regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission, to approve the array in 2020.

The Grant County project would rival in size that of the 300-megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Farm, to be located in neighboring Iowa County. That project is a joint venture of Invenergy, a Chicago company, and two Wisconsin utilities.

Grant County Supervisor Chairman Bob Keeney said the installation would provide shared revenue to the county and local townships. The company estimates an annual payment of $800,000 to $1 million would be distributed.

“It’s also going to help with the phosphorous emission standards in Potosi and Tennyson because it’s in their watershed, so if they are taking (farm) land out of production, it’s a possibility to trade phosphorous credits,” he said.

NextEra Energy estimates construction would see the creation of between 250 to 350 jobs, the majority going to local skilled laborers.

Lancaster City Administrator David Carlson said the city might derive indirect benefits during the construction process.

“Certainly, just having 250 generally well-paid employees staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants, that would be a pretty nice, short-lived impact of the project,” he said.

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