The size of the utility-scale Koshkonong Solar facility proposed for the Cambridge area by Chicago-based Invenergy is excessively large, i.e., a project area of 6,384 acres, solar capacity up to 429 MW, and lithium-battery storage capacity of 165 MW/165-660 MWh.
It would be one of the largest solar-plus-storage facilities east of the Rockies. Cambridge and surrounding communities did not invite this development; it is essentially an Invenergy Invasion. With solar panels up to the very edge of Cambridge and in some cases surrounding individual residences, the Koshkonong facility would be the “boot on the throat” of the village, inhibiting westward expansion and stifling overall growth. The good citizens of Cambridge deserve better.
This is not an altruistic initiative by Invenergy. It’s all about making a gazillion bucks. And any claimed positive effect on climate change would be too small to measure. Farmland leased for solar panels would remain zoned as agricultural, an obvious contradiction of questionable legality. Taxpayers and utility ratepayers would be “stuck with the bill” for generations to come.
Wisconsin lacks a viable comprehensive strategic plan for electrical power generation. Such a plan should emphasize nuclear power, a zero-emission, clean-energy source, and the second largest behind hydroelectric power worldwide. In 2019 the use of nuclear energy in the United States resulted in avoiding more than 476 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to the emissions from 100 million average cars).
Also, for the same power, nuclear energy uses less land than any other clean-energy source. For example, a 1,000 MW nuclear plant uses about 1 square mile, but an equivalent solar photovoltaic facility needs 75 times more space. To produce the same power as a typical commercial reactor, more than 3 million solar panels would be required! (Wind turbines are worse; compared with a 1,000 MW nuclear facility, a wind “farm” needs 360 times the acreage, with 430 “bird choppers.”)
Rather than bulldozing prime farmland and covering the state with solar panels, a rational strategic plan for electrical power production is needed for Wisconsin. Its principal component should be nuclear energy, but should also include the “sensible” generation of solar power, unlike the ill-conceived Koshkonong initiative.
- Edward G. Lovell, Professor Emeritus, UW Mechanical Engineering, Cambridge