Monday, November 29, 2021

Regulators Reject Efforts to Block Solar Power Project in Dane County; opponents condemn loophole in the law

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The proposed 2,400-acre Koshkonong Solar Center has met with opposition from locals and the village of Cambridge, who want some land to live in, as well as neighbors who do not want to live near solar fields.


JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVE


Utility regulators have rejected an attempt to block the largest renewable energy source in Wisconsin, advocating a process that allows utilities to buy a plant after receiving permission from unregulated companies.

Invenergy, a Chicago-based developer, is seeking permission to build a solar panel and storage facility for about 2,400 acres west of Cambridge. A 300 megawatt solar power plant and a 165 megawatt battery will generate enough electricity to power about 80,000 typical homes.

Three companies, including We Energies and Madison Gas and Electric, are seeking to acquire the project for $ 649 million.

The city of Christiana and two residents have petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to deny the permit, saying the utility and the developer are using a legal loophole to avoid regulatory oversight.

This is because unregulated companies like Invenergy do not have to justify the need or the cost of the project, or prove that it is the most economical solution. Utilities such as MGE, which pass the cost of interest onto their taxpayers, are holding higher standards.

Invenergy and utilities are pushing for the letter of the law, the so-called “find and buy” method, which has been used in eight of the 11 large-scale solar projects approved by the PSC.

Lawyer Frank Jablonski, representing Koshkonong’s opponents, said they were trying to circumvent the claims by a “loophole” lawyer.

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