A Chicago firm’s newly created affiliate has formally asked the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for approval to build a utility-scale solar farm west of Cambridge.
According to an April 15 filing with the commission, for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, Delaware-based Koshkonong Solar Energy Center, LLC, would own and operate the 300-megawatt solar farm that is proposed to spread over about 6,300 acres in the towns of Deerfield and Christiana.
Koshkonong Solar Energy Center is a wholly owned subsidiary of Invenergy Solar Development North America, LLC, and an affiliate of Invenergy, LLC, of Chicago, the filing said.
The filing consists of scores of documents found in a search of “Koshkonong Solar” in the PSC’s online search portal at https://apps.psc.wi.gov/APPS/dockets/default.aspx
It follows Invenergy’s filing of an engineering plan for the project in December with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, that was required prior to the PSC filing.
The filing begins a PSC review process that is expected to take 6-12 months. A certificate of public convenience and necessity is required in Wisconsin for facilities that generate 100 megawatts of electricity or more.
The company hopes to begin construction early in 2022 and to be in operation by mid-2024.
Koshkonong Solar is expected to be comparable to the Badger Hollow Solar Farm, a 3,500-acre, 300-megawatt Invenergy project now under construction in Iowa County.
Documents that are part the PSC filing, some of which are locked from public access and others of which are viewable, include property owner easement agreements; a vegetation management strategy; a cultural resources review; a site characterization study; market impact analysis; a preliminary drainage study; a delineation report; a glare study; an economic impact study; an erosion control and storm water management plan; and a health and safety impacts study.
The filing also includes dozens of maps including general and detailed project area maps. And it lays out the process for future decommissioning and removal of the solar equipment. According to the filing:
• The proposed project area is 6,384 acres in the towns of Christiana and Deerfield, smaller than a preliminary project area of 11,900 acres listed in the engineering plan. The project boundary — with many jogs and encompassing a patchwork of participating and non-participating properties – stretches roughly from Evergreen Drive on the west to Munson Road on the north, Kenseth Way on the east and the Christiana/Albion town line on the south.
• Koshkonong Solar has signed contracts with area property owners for use of about 4,600 acres. Of that, 2,349 acres is proposed as the primary area where solar panels will be located, slightly less than 2,600 aces listed in the engineering plan. If solar panels were installed on the entire 4,600 acres, including in what the company is calling an alternate area, the project could generate up to 429 megawatts of energy, the filing said.
• The names of those who have entered into lease agreements are listed in documents that are viewable online.
• The project would include a 4-acre substation, a nearly mile-long new transmission line and a 4,000-5,000 -square-foot operations building. Five full-time staff positions are expected to be created.
• Koshkonong Solar would expect to sell its generated power via long-term power purchase agreements. And it said it might sell or assign the project, or a portion thereof, to a public utility or other qualified entity at any time.
• The Cambridge area was chosen because the company saw Dane County “as generally being supportive of renewable energy development,” and said that this perception was confirmed in the 2020 Dane County Climate Action Plan, “that, among other ambitions, sets a goal of hosting 1200 megawatts of solar generation in the county, including utility scale solar projects like Koshkonong Solar.”
• Omitted from the project area were two properties owned by town of Christiana residents who “engaged early with Koshkonong Solar and clearly expressed that they did not want to host solar facilities on their properties.”
• In response to the village of Cambridge’s concerns about the solar farm being developed along U.S. Highway 12-18 at its western gateway, some highway frontage that was initially considered to be in the primary development area is now in the alternate area. Some parcels were also redesignated to be in the alternate area in response to concerns about the project impeding the village’s future growth.
• Natural corridors were extended for easier wildlife and snowmobile access and movement and updates were made to the project’s vegetation plan to better screen it from the highway.