UW Will Explore Solar’s Role In Ag

UW-Madison and Alliant Energy are partnering on a solar and agricultural research project to be established on university-owned land just west of Lake Kegonsa.

The UW System Board of Regents has approved a request from UW-Madison to enter into a lease agreement with Alliant Energy and proceed with the development of the solar and agricultural research project at their Kegonsa Research Campus.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank says the project builds on UW’s legacy of environmental stewardship.

“It advances clean energy, cultivates innovative research and creates new opportunities for learning,” she says. “It gives our students and faculty the opportunity to study soil, water, plant and animal interactions when a solar array is integrated with agricultural land, which will help our understanding of the costs and benefits associated with siting solar energy in Wisconsin and beyond.”

Alliant Energy will design, construct, own, operate and maintain the 2.25-megawatt solar and agricultural research project. At maximum output, the project is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 450 homes. UW-Madison will receive renewable energy credits generated by the solar project, which will provide proof that power was generated from a renewable energy resource and distributed to the electric grid and that the university is entitled to its attributes.

The project is part of Alliant Energy’s Customer Hosted Renewables Program, which enables customers with available land to host solar facilities and receive lease payments and renewable energy credits. The project also furthers Alliant Energy’s goals to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity it generates by 2050.

“The project aligns with our mission-driven purpose to have a role in strengthening communities,” says Ben Lipari, who leads resource development at Alliant. “This project provides UW-Madison with a facility that will enhance student exposure to renewables while providing a venue to consider how renewables will better integrate with community planning in the future.”

The solar project will be built on a 15-acre site at the Kegonsa Research Campus, which includes the Physical Sciences Lab and a research and development laboratory. The research campus is on approximately 280 acres of UW-owned property west of Lake Kegonsa on Schneider Road. The Physical Sciences Lab is a research and development lab that provides a range of services including the design, fabrication and calibration of scientific instrumentation for research projects of every scale and complexity.

“This project will provide the opportunity to demonstrate how solar energy and agriculture can be successfully integrated,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at UW-Madison. “In addition, the new array will enable students to do hands-on research while gaining a better understanding of how renewable energy can be embedded in a broader community setting.”

Construction could begin in spring 2023 with operation later that year. The timeline is contingent on field study results, design, permitting and equipment availability.