JEFFERSON — Because the official document now more thoroughly addresses county concerns about noise, revenue streams and setbacks from adjacent properties, the Jefferson County Executive Committee on Wednesday agreed to forward a 15-page Joint Development Agreement for a Jefferson-area solar farm to its board of supervisors.
The board is expected to take up the matter at its December meeting.
Ranger Power, a New York-based solar energy company focused on developing utility-scale solar projects in the Midwest, is working with interested area farmers and landowners to develop Jefferson County’s Badger State Solar, which would be sited on approximately 1,000 acres of privately owned and relatively flat and open land west of the city of Jefferson, near the intersection of County Highway Q and State Highway 89.
The solar field would take advantage of the American Transmission Co. substation already located there, which minimizes the project’s footprint and cost, and avoids the need for long transmission lines.
The project, located between large population centers with high electrical demand — Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha on one side and Madison, Beloit and Janesville on the other — will produce enough electricity to meet the equivalent annual needs of about 20,000 homes, according to Dairyland.
Construction would begin no earlier than 2020, with commercial operation anticipated to start around 2023.
The Badger State Solar facility would utilize photovoltaic panels mounted on trackers that will rotate throughout the day to follow the sun, reaching a height of between 10 and 12 feet.
At the end of its useful life, expected to be 40 years, the solar installation would be decommissioned and Ranger Power would be responsible for removing all the equipment and returning the land to a state suitable for agricultural use.
The solar project would generate new Utility Shared Revenue payments for the county and towns. These shared revenue payments will provide additional funds that can be used for schools, roads and other needs as determined by the town and county.
Talking about the amended agreements with Badger State on Wednesday, Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said, with setbacks being increased, decibel levels for the solar farm reduced, revenue streams being confirmed and care for navigable waterways part of the agreement, the county’s executive committee should feel comfortable sending the document to supervisors for final approval.
The committee agreed Badger State was making admirable attempts to “be a good neighbor,” as Jefferson County Corporation Counsel Blair Ward stated, and was bending to meet county demands. The panel also recognized the towns involved are supportive of the document.
Even if the county does not ratify the agreement, Badger State could move ahead with its plans, but in a form more advantageous to the firm than the document currently awaiting county approval.
“So we should get this done sooner, rather than later,” Ward said.
Jim Schroeder of the executive committee and Jefferson County board chairman, said he was comfortable with the agreement.
“The setbacks and noise have been addressed and that will satisfy some. But in cases like this, there will be people who will never be satisfied, no matter what you do,” Schroeder said.