Cambridge is looking for input from its residents on a proposed solar farm at the village’s western gateway.
In January, the Cambridge Village Board created an ad hoc energy subcommittee to plan for its involvement in the state review of the 375-megawatt solar farm proposed by Chicago developer Invenergy LLC. The solar farm would lie just west of Cambridge in the Towns of Deerfield and Christiana, spanning both sides of U.S. Highway 12-18 at the village’s gateway.
Subcommittee members include Village President Mark McNally and Village Board members Wyatt Rose and Ted Kumbier. Two citizen members will also soon be named.
The subcommittee met for the first time on Feb. 4. It is now asking village residents to submit to it their questions to it about the solar farm. The committee has also set apublic hearing on the solar farm at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18. The hearing will be virtual. A link to join in will be available next week.
Questions and concerns can be submitted in advance of the hearing via the village’s website, www.ci.cambridge.wi.us, by emailing Village Administrator Lisa Moen at LMoen@ci.cambridge.wi.us, or by emailing Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org
McNally urged Cambridge residents to weigh in, and to take an active role in the progress of the solar farm.
“Our primary responsibility is to our residents of the Village of Cambridge,” McNally said. “We should have a voice here, from those residents.”
“Education of the public in Cambridge is going to be very important,” Kumbier agreed. “It’s going to affect their lives, and the gateway of Cambridge.”
The Koshkonong Solar Energy Center is proposed to be built on up to 2,600 acres in the towns of Christiana and Deerfield, within a total project area of 11,900 acres.
Up to 912,000 solar panels could be installed on land leased from area property owners, with each panel able to generate up to 530 watts of electricity, said an engineering plan submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in December.
The proposed development is just outside of Cambridge, leaving the village’s involvement not as clear-cut as that of the towns of Deerfield and Christiana.
However, the project would lie partially in Cambridge’s extraterritorial zoning area, which state law says gives the village some say in how that area, just beyond village borders, is developed.
Concerns shared by the village board, expressed in previous meetings, include landlocking the village and limiting its future development options west of Cambridge. There’s also concern that the village’s western gateway would be overtaken by the project, and that local property values might decline.
Invenergy expects this spring to apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, kicking off a year-long state review process.
Cambridge’s role in that process, committee members said on Feb. 4, could include submitting an “intent to petition” letter to the PSC, and submitting any questions about the project directly to Invenergy.
Committee members said they’d be trying to get questions answered from Invenergy between March and May. Part of the approval process for the certificate of public convenience and necessity includes “back and forth” of questions and answers between invested parties and the developer.
“There is some urgency,” McNally said. “We need to be putting some material (together) or getting our positions established and communicated.”
Rose, Kumbier and McNally agreed to seek joint meetings soon with the Towns of Christiana and Deerfield.
Cambridge Village Board members debated at recent meetings whether to do so, saying the townships had a different perspective and different interests in the project than Cambridge.
“Those are the people who are right in the middle of it right now, working with the energy company,” Kumbier said.
Kumbier also suggested reaching out to municipalities that have seen similar developments in their communities, to gauge what the village should know about the process. Plans to invite Invenergy to give a presentation to the committee, or the village board, are also being considered.