County Executive Joe Parisi announced last week that Dane County will seek partners in to help develop new solar and wind farms across Wisconsin. It’s the latest investment in clean, renewable energy by the County Executive who’s prioritized installing solar at county facilities, most recently making up to 40 acres of land at the Dane County Regional Airport available for solar, all in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce climate change causing emissions.
The county is releasing what’s called a request for proposals, seeking offers from prospective solar and wind developers on projects Dane County could become an investor in. Projects will be evaluated this summer, with recommendations made in time for 2019 budget preparations. The goal is to facilitate the development of projects that generate renewable electricity to offset the amount of energy used to run county operations. In turn, keeping with the county’s benchmark of being 100 percent sustainable.
Dane County currently owns more solar than any other public entity in the state with nearly 600 kW at 15 sites across the county, not including the upcoming Airport Project which will be the largest public sector project in Wisconsin. That project could generate over 8 megawatts of power, almost three times more than the largest solar project currently operating in the region, a 2.25 megawatt facility in Beloit.
In addition to the airport, Parisi’s budgets have funded solar projects at the Dane County Job Center, the new East District Highway Facility and Medical Examiner’s Complex, the offices of Dane County Land and Water Resources, the Dane County Library Service and others. Additional future solar projects are planned for the Alliant Energy Center.
The new solar projects will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of taking 1700 cars off the road, reducing direct energy costs by over $2.1 million over the next two decades. The new Dane County East District Highway Garage that opened last year has well over 800 solar panels and is the second largest municipally-owned solar project in the state.
In addition to the solar developers, the project will employ local electricians and construction workers. There are more than 2,800 people employed in the solar industry in Wisconsin and 460 in Dane County, according to the Solar Foundation, which tracks solar jobs nationwide. Dane County is second only to Milwaukee County in the number of solar jobs in Wisconsin.
Expanding the county’s investment in solar projects will help continue the county’s tradition of being 100 percent sustainable. For more than the past two decades, Dane County has generated renewable electricity at its landfill, fueled by the naturally occurring methane given off by the waste. Presently, the landfill makes enough electricity to power 4,500 homes.
The county has initiated an innovative project to instead convert this methane into clean burning vehicle fuel, to further reduce carbon emissions by thousands of tons, the primary contributor to climate change causing greenhouse gases. In addition to helping Dane County achieve nearly 100% renewable status, the two landfills since 1998 have earned over $35 million for taxpayers thru the sale of renewable electricity. The County’s total renewable power generation reduces CO2 emissions the equivalent of taking over 5,200 cars off the road.
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