Dane County Marks Earth Week as 4th County in U.S. Powered by 100% Renewable Electricity
April 18, 2023
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
Construction Complete on Dane County, Alliant Energy & SunVest Solar Project
To celebrate Earth Week, County Executive Joe Parisi joined Alliant Energy and SunVest Solar representatives at the newly constructed Yahara Solar Project today to highlight Dane County becoming the 4th county in the U.S. to reach the milestone of using 100% renewable electricity at all county facilities. The completed installation of 33,000 solar panels at the 90-acre solar farm site on county-owned land in the Town of Cottage Grove will reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those produced by more than 5,000 cars.
“Achieving our goal of powering our buildings with 100% renewable electricity is a landmark achievement in our fight against climate change,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Dane County is not only the first county government in the state to achieve 100% renewable electricity status, but just the 4th county in the nation to reach the 100% goal.” Dane County is a member of U.S. EPA’s Green Power Partnership program that tracks the renewable energy progress of hundreds of municipalities across the county.
The 17-megawatt solar project will produce more than 36 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year — enough to power more than 3,000 Dane County homes. The 33,000 solar panel array utilizes the latest bifacial panel technology that produces energy from both sides of the panel, which increases energy production as sunlight reflects off the ground, especially when snow-covered, and as they track the sun throughout the day.
“Guided by our purpose to serve customers and build stronger communities, we’re honored to help Dane County and all of our customers achieve their clean energy goals,” said JP Brummond, Vice President of Customer and Community Engagement for Alliant Energy. “The Yahara Solar Project, and all of our renewable energy projects across our footprint, diversify energy generation on the grid so it more reliably delivers energy when our customers need it most.”
Alliant Energy selected SunVest Solar, headquartered in Pewaukee, Wisconsin to build, operate, and initially own the project. Construction of the Yahara Solar Project began in June of last year. Pieper Electric, with headquarters in New Berlin, is the installation contractor working with multiple local unions.
“SunVest is proud to have partnered with Alliant Energy, Dane County, Pieper Electric, and all of the people and organizations involved in the Yahara Solar Project,” said Kirk Kindred, President of Business Development at SunVest Solar. “Dane County is advancing clean energy and leading by example. We hope other municipalities across the nation are inspired to follow suit.”
Alliant Energy will deliver the power generated to its customers, and Dane County, in return for leasing the land to the project, will receive the renewable energy credits (RECs). Under an innovative deal structure, the County continues to own the land, and the project company leases the land, with payment made in RECs. This allows the County to reach its renewable energy goals for decades to come without any increase in energy costs.
The RECs will offset the County’s greenhouse gas emissions, helping the County to achieve its goal of 100% renewable electricity two years ahead of schedule. The project also contributes to the County’s broader goal of cutting countywide emissions in half by 2030 under its Climate Action Plan.
The construction of the solar farm relied on the skilled work and craftsmanship of local union operating engineers, carpenters, laborers, and electricians increasing the project’s positive economic impact. The solar project created approximately 70 jobs during peak construction last fall.
Converting over 90 acres of agricultural land previously used for growing corn and soybeans to solar energy production and additional acreage on the site to prairie grass plantings will produce additional environmental benefits. Transforming the land to energy production will cut water runoff volume by about 325,000 cubic feet or roughly 3.5 Olympic-size swimming pools, reducing phosphorus runoff to area waterways by 370 pounds annually. Not tilling the land will boost habitat for dwindling pollinator populations and sequester 72 tons of soil carbon or the equivalent emissions of over 8,000 gallons of gasoline burned annually.
The current 2023 County budget funds the significant climate goal of having all County facilities and fleet be carbon neutral by 2030. Achieving the initial 100% renewable electricity goal will reduce the county’s emissions by 63% or 24,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually compared to 2020.