State regulators approved a $390 million plan to build two utility-scale solar plants in Wisconsin on Thursday. This massive investment will provide clean, carbon free power to 110,000 homes throughout the state.
“Wisconsin is ready to embrace a clean energy economy thanks to declining costs of renewable infrastructure and utilities responding to customer demands for clean energy options.” Chairwoman of the approval board Rebecca Valcq told the Wisconsin State Journal. Once completed, the two projects would become the largest solar panel installations in the Midwest.
State utility companies are actively looking to retire existing coal fired power plants and other proposals would have cost consumers more than $181 million in extra service fees. Constructing a large solar farm not only is the cleaner choice, but it is the most cost effective. In fact, customers can expect their electricity bill to go down by roughly 1% when the plants are completed.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, the benefits to the state are enormous. Property owners are selling land at a premium, having already received $54 million from the proceeds of the land sales and local governments are seeing a boost in tax receipts of nearly $35 million a year. Moreover, half a million tones of greenhouse gasses will not be released into the air every year. State utilities have set a goal of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Utility-scale solar projects are a new weapon in the fight against climate change. While some landowners are bothered by the size of the project, the total footprint only accounts for 0.03% of non-forested land in the state. If all currently planned solar projects are approved and completed, that number rises to 0.22%. With so much land available to produce clean energy, state regulators are working to make sure that the Badger state is the regional leader in solar power.