Wisconsin town gains energy independence, resilience & jobs as a former commercial tree farm becomes a giant 300 GWh solar farm

On April 18, 2023, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) awarded their Envision Platinum certification to Alliant Energy’s Wood County Solar Project, which transformed a former tree farm into an ongoing source of clean, renewable energy.

As most REVITALIZATION readers already know, there’s a vas difference in both biodiversity value and carbon sequestration value between a forest and a tree farm. The former supports a vast array of biodiversity: the latter is usually a comparatively lifeless desert, with no more biodiversity than a corn field.

What’s more, much of the carbon captured by tree farms is quickly released back into the atmosphere as the trees are harvested and turned into consumables like paper.

The vast majority of “forests” managed by the U.S. Forest Service are actually commercial tree farms. This should come as no surprise, since the Forest Service is an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now, in Saratoga, Wisconsin, the Wood County Solar Project has turned a former tree farm into a solar energy farm.

While not as regenerative as turning an closed landfill or brownfield into a solar farm, it’s definitely an enlightened form of energy infrastructure renovation that will reduce fossil fuel emissions, thus helping to restore our global climate.

This project has greatly boosted the resilience of the area, giving it an alternate source of electricity should the fossil fuel sources be disrupted, not to mention being immune to price hikes by Saudi Arabia and its ilk.

Built by EPC contractor Burns & McDonnell, it will produce approximately 300 GWh of electricity annually.

Melissa Peneycad, ISI Managing Director, said “ISI congratulates Alliant Energy and the project partners on achieving Envision Platinum for an outstanding project that advances clean and renewable energy in Wisconsin. The independent, third-party verification process using the Envision Framework determined that this project attained the highest award level possible, with significant accomplishments that will benefit the local community and environmental sustainability for decades to come.”

Pre-project analysis carried out by Alliant Energy underlined the long-term economic, community, and environmental value of developing new utility-scale solar while retiring its coal-fired facilities in Wisconsin.

This project is part of Alliant Energy’s solar program that includes adding nearly 1,100 MW of solar power into Wisconsin’s power grid by the summer of 2024.

The project scope includes nearly 390,000 solar panels on approximately 1,200 acres, a collector substation, and an approximately 3.8-mile, 138-kilovolt (kV) overhead transmission line interconnect (Gen-Tie).

Guided by our purpose to serve our customers and build stronger communities, we are proud to be recognized with the Envision Platinum award for our Wood County Solar Project,” said Barbara Tormaschy, Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Regulatory Strategy at Alliant Energy.

We know it’s important to build projects with sustainability in mind because of what it means for our customers. We’re able to create a healthier environment while producing reliable, clean energy for the next 30 years,” she added.

With its operations regulated by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the now-complete, 150-megawatt (MW) solar installation produces enough energy to power approximately 40,000 homes annually.

Photo courtesy of Alliant Energy.

See ISI website.

You must be logged in to post a comment