BELOIT — As multiple solar energy projects are moving forward, Alliant Energy officials say their top priorities are to expand upon renewable energy sources while providing reliable and affordable power for customers.
Representatives for Alliant held an open house Tuesday afternoon to meet with Town of Beloit officials and community members and answer questions about some projects they are exploring in the area, including solar power projects.
“Part of our goal is to diversify the grid. No one is going to be kept in the dark on this, and we want to work with the community,” said Chase Coleman, a communications partner with Alliant.
Construction on Alliant’s Paddock Solar Project is expected to begin in 2022 and wrap up towards the end of 2023. The project will provide about $260,000 in shared revenue for the township and Rock County, offer income for participating landowners and create a couple hundred new jobs.
The solar project, located off Highway 213 in the Town of Beloit, will generate enough power to sustain 16,900 homes in Wisconsin. The solar panels will be installed on about 468 acres and generate an estimated 65 megawatts of electricity.
Coleman said Alliant is pushing to invest more in solar power and other sources of renewable energy in an effort to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company looks to retire all of its remaining coal-fired facilities in Wisconsin by 2024.
By the end of 2023, Alliant aims to add 1,089 megawatts of solar energy production throughout Wisconsin. This effort includes 12 different projects across nine counties.
Coleman said in addition to environmental and economic benefits, the cost to build solar facilities is also becoming more affordable for companies.
Senior project manager Rick Zimmerman said they plan to share data, maps and hold dialogue with residents at various steps along the way, in an effort to keep community members informed and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy.
He added that when choosing locations for solar projects, one factor to consider is existing transmission lines and whether certain plots of land can properly handle the amount of energy generated. In southern Wisconsin, Zimmerman said there are multiple ideal locations for solar farms.
Town of Beloit Community Development Director Tim Kienbaum said he and other town officials welcomed the dialogue with Alliant Energy. He added that the company continues to be cooperative and is providing several benefits for the community.
Town Finance Director John Malizio said the shared revenues from Alliant’s West Riverside Energy Center have been directed towards capital projects by the town board, which represents a significant economic benefit that also serves to help keep tax dollars lower.
Bob Newell, Senior Manager of Strategic Projects, said the West Riverside Energy Center’s own solar farm has been operational since June.
The solar panels adjacent to the natural gas-fired plant on the township’s west side have consistently been producing more than 4 megawatts of electricity, which has helped provide auxiliary power for the main facility.
“It’s a really cost-effective way to save money for our customers,” Newell said. “We have a lot of solar being added.”
Additionally, a brand new visitors center on-site has been completed, along with an extension of a nearby biking trail that allows residents to bicycle past the facility and see it for themselves.
Newell said overall, the continued focus on renewable energy sources is helping to build stronger communities while offering a secure and safe supply of power for customers.