Wisconsin moves forward with two massive solar projects

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A month ago when this author wrote a lengthy piece about the coming solar boom in the Midwest, I figured that the project announcements would slowly roll in over the next few months. What I did not anticipate was the rapid-fire approval of a larger number of large solar projects across the region, all in early Spring.

Following on Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) approval of Open Road Renewables’ applications for two large solar projects totaling 350 MWac over the six weeks, now it Wisconsin’s turn. According to Renew Wisconsin, yesterday state regulators approved certificates of public convenience and necessity and power contracts for two large solar projects totaling 450 MWac, as well as power lines to connect these projects to the grid.

The larger of the two, Invenergy’s Badger Hollow Solar Farm in southern Wisconsin’s Iowa County, is larger than any solar project that has yet been built in the Midwest. Invenergy’s plans comprise around 1 million PV modules for a total capacity of 408 MWdc/300MWac. NextEra’s Two Creeks Solar project, in Manitowoc and Kewaune Counties near Lake Michigan, is not exactly small either, clocking in at 213 MWdc/150 MWac.

Details gleaned from project documents follow:

Badger Hollow Solar Farm

  • Capacity: 300 MWac/408 MWdc
  • Developer: Invenergy
  • Location: Iowa County
  • Mounting system: single axis trackers

Two Creeks Solar

  • Capacity: 150 MWac/213 MWdc
  • Developer: NextEra
  • Location: Manitowoc and Kewaune County
  • Mounting System: single axis trackers
  • Modules: thin film or monocrystalline silicon

Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas & Electric have contracted to purchase the entire output of the Two Creeks Solar Farm and 150 MW of the output of the Badger Hollow. According to Renew Wisconsin, developers plan to put both in service by the end of 2021.

 

More to come

These two projects together would dramatically expand Wisconsin’s current installed solar capacity, which Renew Wisconsin puts at 103 MW as of the end of last year, with the large majority of that being distributed rooftop solar.

But they are not the only projects underway. Renew Wisconsin also notes that two different utilities have announced power contracts with two solar projects totaling 249 MW over the last four weeks, and that earlier this week the Richland County Board of Zoning gave its approval for a 50 MW solar project in the town of Buena Vista.

If all five of these projects go forward, that would total 749 MW, which Renew Wisconsin says is enough to supply 2.1% of Wisconsin’s annual electricity.

And even this is just the beginning. The interconnection queue of grid operator MISO shows 28 active solar projects totaling 4.6 GWac that have been proposed in the state, although it is unclear how many of the five previously mentioned are in that list. All but three are proposed to be put online by the end of 2021.