SOMERS — Wisconsin is inching closer to its governor’s goal of becoming a “100% carbon-free” state.
The governor’s office announced last week that We Energies is going to build a 2.25 megawatt solar-power system on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. That’s enough to power approximately 400 homes.
The project, as part of We Energies’ Solar Now Program, will be completed at no cost to the state or to the UW System. We Energies will be leasing space from Parkside to construct and operate its solar panels.
“There’s no financial cost to the university, other than we are giving them access to 12 acres of land,” said John Mielke, the executive director for media marketing and communications for UW-Parkside.
The 2.25 megawatts anticipated to be generated by the panels will be added back into We Energies’ grid.
Brendan Conway, a We Energies spokesman, said that power would help during stretches of high power use, such as during hot summers when air conditioning is used more liberally.
This kind of supplementary power is becoming more important as We Energies has closed a few coal plants across the state — including the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, which closed last year — according to Conway.
We Energies hopes to have the solar panels at Parkside up and running sometime in 2020.
“Approving a We Energies plan to construct, operate and maintain a solar panel array at UW-Parkside aligns with other initiatives to enhance environmental sustainability in our region,” Scott Menke, Parkside’s vice chancellor of finance and administration, said in a statement. “Dedicating the area to green energy will pay dividends for years to come.”
Gov. Tony Evers, who in August called for having Wisconsin’s power become “100% carbon-free” by 2050, applauded the plan.
In a statement, he said: “I set the goal for Wisconsin to be 100% carbon-free by 2050 because the climate crisis is real and immediate. I am pleased to see approval of this renewable energy project at UW-Parkside because it is through partnerships like this that we are going to reach our goal and build a sustainable future in Wisconsin for generations to come.”
After being approved in late 2018, Solar Now Program has “been incredibly popular,” Conway said.
The state approved allowing We Energies to set up as many as 35 megawatts worth of solar panels. Conway said that within three months of the program being announced, there was 90 megawatts worth of interest, primarily from school districts and municipalities, including the City of Kenosha.
There’s already one installation set up in New Berlin. The panels planned for Parkside are planned to go next to Tallent Hall, in an unused parking lot. Mielke called the spot “an underutilized area.”
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