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February 17, 2019

2/1/2019 2:56:00 PM
PSC reviews solar project, receives testimony

The Public Service Commission (PSC) held two sessions at the Dodger Bowl Thursday to receive testimony concerning the proposed Badger Solo Farm,
The proposed project is located in western Iowa County, Wisconsin adjacent to the villages of Montfort and Cobb; the majority of which would be directly south of U.S. Highway 18.
Approximately 1,100 acres extend north of U.S. Highway 18, with the entirety of the project being east of State Highway 80, which is the county line with Grant County. The proposed project boundary includes properties in Mifflin, Eden, and Linden townships, and a small area at the south end of the village of Cobb.
If approved, the project will be built on approximately 3,500 acres of leased land within an approximately 10,700-acre project area boundary (16.7 square miles).
The proposed schedule for the Badger Hollow Solar Project:
-2017-2019, development activities include solar resource assessment, environmental studies, interconnection studies, and permitting.
-2019-2020, project construction
-2020 operational
Weather no doubt had some effect on the turnout but besides those who testified in person, written testimony had been received since the hearing dates were announced. While the project has those for and against it, the Wisconsin State Journal published an editorial last week in favor of the project being completed.
The Iowa County Board of Supervisors have studied the project and had enough support for the project to continue. For the past few meetings testimony has been offered for and against the project during public comment.
Landowners who are renting a portion of their farm to Badger Hollow Solar Farm say the project is a godsend and is allowing them to remain farming. With dairy prices so low there have been 638 dairy farms forced out of business over the past year the extra income may save more from following the trend.
C.R. Bishop and Sons, Inc.plans to rent about 650 acres to Badger Hollow. Members of the Bishop family have spoken if favor of the project both at the Iowa County Board meetings and with the PSC. Their message is echoed by other farmers planning to lease their land.
"We want to see our kids take over running the farm someday," Andrew Bishop says. "I have to have the financial future in front of them to make it viable."
Invenergy's Badger Hollow Solar Farm is one of the largest planned for cropland in the country. The project is for 300 megawatts which Invenergy officials say could power 77,000 homes.
But there is opposition from the feeling the nearly 5 1/2 square mile project could turn the area into a solar wasteland. Panels constructed on the acreage will face east in the morning then tilt throughout the day to catch the most sun, Power will be transferred to machines called inverters. Underground power collection lines will carry the energy to an overhead line which will send it to the power grid.
Two of the most vocal proponents of the project are Richard Jinkins and Alan Jewell who have land next to the proposed solar farm. They have joined a formal process at the PSC to intervene in the Badger Hollow case.
They feel the beauty of the land will be destroyed and don't feel it should be thrust upon them. They fear the project ties up too much high quality land that may be needed for food production and also fear neighbors will move away because of the unsightliness the project creates.
Jewell has gone on record that the proposed local restrictions for the project are inadequate. Iowa County, who along with the townships where the land is, will receive financial benefit but Jewell feels the proposed requirements for buffering the project are inadequate. The operating contract calls for 50 feet between the project and property lines of non-participating owners or any public road.  It also requires a 100 foot setback from any dwelling of a non-participant.
In a recent interview, Jewell said he wants more oversight with tradeoffs of such unprecedented use of ag land for a solar utility.
"To an accountant, it's dirt," he said. "To someone who works the land and feels it is a's not an element to buy or sell. It is an element to respect."
Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Madison Gas and Electric have lined up to purchase interests equivalent to half the Plant's generating capacity. The PSC has scheduled March 6 for oral arguments on whether the utilities should be allowed to purchase the extra solar capacity for $389.7 million from Badger Hollow and from another state project known as Two Creeks.

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