Wood County Solar Project begins construction phase

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SARATOGA, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wood County Solar Project has transferred to Alliant Energy and moved into the construction phase on roughly two square miles of land for a 150-megawatt solar utility in the Town of Saratoga. It is the first of 12 solar farm projects Alliant is implementing in the state.

“We’re just going to a renewable-- this country is just going to renewable power, I mean, that’s just, we’re really looking to the future here and we think it’s best for our customers and we’re really excited about it,” the site’s construction manager, Erik Jensen said.

Savion was the company that initially worked with the town and prepared the site before Alliant Energy would take the project over. Alliant was approved to do that at the end of June and has since begun to pull out leftover roots from the trees that were harvested in the spring and level the land. Jensen said once an area is leveled, they plant short, pollinator-friendly grasses where the panels will be installed.

“We’ll come in and put in the posts that will hold the tracking system so that these can turn and then the panels will attach to the tracking system,” he explained. The leveling is expected to be completed by fall and they will begin installing the panels over the winter.

In addition to the pollinator-friendly grasses amongst the panels, they will be planting 50-60 acres of pollinator habitat in empty areas, specifically focusing on species like the Monarch butterfly.

“We’re actually pretty excited about that. That’s a nice little program that benefits the habitat and actually is a maintenance thing for us; it’s less maintenance on the long-haul for us to not have to mow all of the time,” he said.

The fields of solar panels will convert enough of the sun’s energy to power about 40,000 homes. It is also bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue into the area through Wisconsin’s utility aid law for solar host sites. The town’s chair, Terry Rickaby said they have received that money and much it will go towards fixing and maintaining roads.

Rickaby said he has only received positive calls about the project so far from area residents, saying that once people got their questions answered, they were supportive of the project. Now, they are investigating how the project could continue to build on the local economy.

“I’ve said to the board, I think we need to go into these other townships and see what they created, if any jobs, created out of that because of the solar (sic),” Rickaby said, adding that housing is a big need in order to grow the area.

The solar project could be expanded too. Savion purchased the rest of the land that was once owned by Golden Sands Dairy and proposed adding to the operation to the east of the existing location. However, that project is not certain and has many steps to go through before becoming a reality. To learn more about that project, click here.

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