Two sites in Wisconsin, one in La Crosse County and another at an abandoned landfill in Eau Claire, will host 1-megawatt community solar farms. The farms are being built by California’s Pristine Sun under an agreement with Xcel Energy for its Wisconsin customers. Construction of the two facilities is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
Repurposing locations such as decommissioned power plants and closed down landfills has been an important element to the development of solar projects in Wisconsin. One of Wisconsin’s largest community solar programs to date, the Eau Claire solar garden will be constructed on the 7.5-acre location of an abandoned landfill called Sky Park which operated from 1948 to 1965.
“Solar is an excellent reuse strategy for this idle landfill, and the project is another great example of how the private and public sectors can work together for economic development and, in this case, provide a clean energy solution to the public,” said Dale Peters, Eau Claire city manager.
“We are pleased to offer an option for customers who want to support locally sourced solar and to collaborate with the city of Eau Claire on a prime location for one of our first community solar gardens,” said Mark Stoering, president, Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company. “Securing this very visible location is an exciting step in the process, and we look forward to breaking ground later this year.”
Community solar projects continue to grow and benefit customers in larger numbers because developers can purchase and construct large solar farms in optimum locations with lower volume pricing for equipment. Subscription to community solar services include customers of all income levels regardless if they own property or a business. As part of Xcel’s Solar Connect Community program, customers will choose their subscription level, pay a one time fee and then receive monthly credits on their bill based on the amount of solar energy their portion of the solar gardens produces.
Interest in the project has been high. Xcel began offering Solar Connect Community subscriptions in February and expects the program to sell out of subscriptions before the facilities become operational.
Solar continues to expand in Wisconsin but has been hampered by various obstacles. For instance, at the end of 2015 regulators from We Energies attempted to raise rates to a monthly $3.79 per kilowatt hour of solar power for customers that have solar power. Fortunately, this levy was struck down in court after an appeal by Renew Wisconsin and The Alliance for Solar Choice.Tweet