Sustainably Speaking: Wisconsin-based energy company completes six new solar array sites –

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WAUTOMA, Wis. (WFRV) – Alliant Energy recently announced the completion of six new solar array sites across Wisconsin, bringing their total to 12 locations. The most recent was the Wautoma Solar Site, located in Waushara County.

This site is a 624-acre parcel of land, a medium-scale array, that is home to 240,000 panels and has the ability to power around 25,000 homes annually. The construction of this site began in the summer of 2022 and went online into service in December of 2023.

To complete this project in particular, it helped create 1,000 jobs to make sure the panels were installed safely and efficiently. With all 12 sites up and running, Alliant Energy can now produce 1,098 MWH of electricity and power around 300,000 homes each year.

A spokesman with Alliant Energy, Tony Palase, says that the company evaluated its portfolio and came to the conclusion that adding solar energy was the right idea as part of its goal of establishing a clean energy blueprint. Palase describes the unique features of this site.

“The single-axis tracking allows it to follow the sun throughout the day, really maximizing that energy output,” explained Palase. “We’ve got bi-facial panels, which is a newer technology that we are able to deploy. That allows us to capture sunlight directly from the sun, but also on a winter day like today, the light that is reflected off the ground can help power the back of the panels.”

When driving by a solar array site, you might not notice the sustainability efforts behind an operation like the Wautoma site, as Alliant Energy’s Environmental Services Manager, Bill Skalitzky, says the environment was heavily on their mind when completing this project.

“The Wautoma site is very unique,” said Skalitzky. “We worked exclusively with Central Wisconsin Trout Unlimited, looking at how we could design this site to potentially improve runoff to local trout streams. The other nice aspect of this site is that the grass you might see around us, there are 694 acres of native grasses and seeds and forbes within the array.”

Skalitzky says that in addition, lining the array are 154 acres of pollinator parries, which Alliant Energy worked with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help select a seed suitable for that environment. The pollinator prairie was not placed inside the array, as the builders had to be mindful of the height of plants placed on the site.

They ended up choosing to plant Lupin and Milkweed plants in and around the array, and that attracts the Karner Blue and Monarch butterflies to the site. Skalitzky says that area is a high potential zone for the Karner Blue butterfly, which is attracted to the Lupin, so it only made sense to select that seed to plant. He goes on to say that these native grasses and pollinators are important to the environment, as they help infiltration and reduce runoff to the local trout streams.

Finally, the builders knew that not only would butterflies be attracted to the site, but some four-legged animals as well. Skalitzky says that was in mind also.

“One of the other cool things about this site is the deer-friendly fencing,” explained Skalitzky. “So we worked with the DNR as there’s a special kind of turtle of concern called the Blanding’s Turtle. We actually flipped the fence kind of upside down so the bigger openings are on the bottom and then we cut openings for the Blanding Turtle to come in and nest on this site.”

Skalitzky continued to tell Local 5’s Ryan Kudish that the company also made a goal to reuse as much construction material as possible to keep material out of the waste stream.

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