Alliant completes solar projects in Cassville, other Wisconsin areas

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Six projects expand energy production in Wisconsin regions


Outside Cassville, WI, and tucked deep into the farmlands around the valleys and hills between Prairie du Chien and Lancaster, land that had previously grown crops looked like metal scales. The solar panels were spread across 325 acres, and from the ground the metallic skin touched both horizons. In the uncharacteristically warm December sun the black and metal slates that covered the rolling hills reflected white ribbons of sunlight.

Around the solar farm’s parameter Tony Palese, Alliant Energy Senior Communications Partner; Jared Stensby, the solar farm’s Construction Manager; and Colin Kuntz, Electrical Field Engineer, stood next to a wood and wire fence. The holes in the fencing were wide on the bottom and got progressively smaller toward the top. 

“It’s an agricultural fence. We put the small squares on top and big squares on the bottom for small animals,” Stensby said. He stated that, after it snows, rabbit, squirrel and other small animal tracks will cover the ground underneath the solar arrays. “It’s not like we’re keeping them out.”

They called it “deer fencing” because it was meant to prevent larger animals from entering the farm and causing damage to the solar panels and to themselves.

The Cassville Solar Project was a 50-megawatt array that covered hundreds of acres with nearly 120,000 solar panels and 22,958 piles. Alliant Energy began the project in June 2022 and completed it on Dec. 28, 2023. It was one of six Wisconsin solar projects Alliant completed in 2023 along with sites in Green, Sheboygan, Rock, Dodge and Waushara counties. In total, Alliant Energy increased their solar energy capacity 514-megawatts, which the company claimed will increase customer access to renewable energy.

The Cassville site is expected to create enough energy to power nearly 13,000 homes each year by generating more than 105,000 MWh annually.

“Completing these projects is a huge milestone and a pivotal moment in our journey toward a brighter energy future,” David de Leon, Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin President, said. “We’re proud to leverage new technology and locally generated energy solutions to increase customer value and help avoid long-term costs.”

Recent criticism levied against solar projects in Wisconsin argued the projects ate up land that could be used for crop farming or other agricultural pursuits; however, solar projects have taken up 3,500 acres in Wisconsin farmland whereas one million acres were devoted to ethanol crop production. 

“As sites like this become more common, I expect people will see the benefits they have,” Palese said as he walked through the rows of panels. A gentle whir started as the panels adjusted to catch the optimal amount of sunlight. The panels brought in energy from the front and back to catch light reflected off the ground. “These are pretty quiet neighbors for most folks.”

Palese stated farmers leased their land to solar farming because there were a multitude of benefits: “We partner with these farmers because they want to lease their land to diversify their income streams and have some security in their finances.”

Alliant has leased their sites for 30 years. At the end of the lease Palese said the farmers can utilize the land for crop farming or any other pursuit. “We can yank all this up and return it to farmland.”

“In some cases the leases we sign with the farmers have a rock-solid guarantee that we’re going to return this land to the farmers in the same or better condition than when they gave it to us,” Palese added.

In the 325 acres Alliant has leased for the project there are 77 acres of pollinator area. These areas include a low-growth grass mix  to minimize labor and control erosion, strategically chosen trees and other foliage to attract natural wildlife such as birds and insects and, most importantly, time for the soil to regenerate. The relief from pesticide use and the strain of crop production should bring new fertility to the soil. 

Between the six new sites, more than 300 acres of pollinator area was established.

Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint includes 12 solar farm projects that is estimated to be able to provide energy for 300,000 homes and result in $130 million in shared revenue payments in the next 30 years. 

Solar energy, along with gas, coal and other sources, are all used to provide power to homes and communities, and the company has a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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