Full steam ahead at 1,000-acre solar site

Workers contending with sloppy winter weather prepare for installation of panels in the Town of Holland

CREWS AT THE 1,000-acre Onion River Solar Project in the Town of Holland worked last week to install piles that will eventually hold the 387,000 solar panels that will produce an estimated 150 megawatts of power. After the piles are in place, crews will install the racking system that allows the panels to move and follow the sun throughout the day. The solar farm is expected to be running by the end of the year. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Work on the Onion River Solar Project in the Town of Holland is on track, but that’s not something that can necessarily be attributed to the mild weather so far this winter.

Tony Palese, a senior communication partner with Alliant Energy, said that the mild weather has been both a benefit and a detriment.

While warm temperatures and no snow make it easier to drive piles, it has also made it more challenging to get heavy equipment in and out of the site on muddy ground, he said.

Palese said that last month Alliant completed the civil site work for the project — grading, creating access roads and driveways and preparing laydown areas for construction equipment.

The company has also installed underground electrical cables, which make up about 40% of the overall electrical cables for the project, he said.

Much of the remaining electrical work involves stringing cables between the solar panels, he said.

Crews are also beginning to install piles, the metal columns that anchor the solar array structures to the ground, he said.

As the piles are placed, crews will install the racking system, which allows the solar panels to move and follow the sun, on top of them, Palese said.

“It’s a lot of repetitive work,” he said, noting there are a significant number of piles and racks to install.

After that, he said, work will begin on installing the solar panels and inverters — likely sometime this spring — followed by testing and commissioning.

“It’s a big milestone for our construction team to put up that first panel,” Palese said.

Palese noted that as work on the piles and racks begins, the company is also installing a fence around the site.

The fence is intended to keep deer and other large animals out, although small animals such as rabbits can still get in, Palese said.

The fence is about 8 feet tall and consists of wooden posts with 4-inch wire mesh.

“It’s not like a chain link fence,” Palese said. “It’s a lot less noticeable.”

Ultimately, he added, the company will install some vegetative screening, such as bushes, to help soften the look.

Work has also started on the substation that will connect the solar array to the main electrical grid, Palese said. The substation, which is on Risseeuw Road west of Highway GW, will be next to the existing Holland substation, he said. 

Palese said about 200 crew members have been working at the 1,000-acre site in Sheboygan County.

The Onion River Solar Project, which began last summer, is a 150-megawatt solar farm that will contain 387,000 solar panels when complete.

It’s expected that crews will drive 70,000 to 80,000 piles to anchor these panels, the company has said.

The solar farm, which will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes in the area and throughout the Midwest power grid, is expected to be online by the end of this year.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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