Work begins on sprawling, 387,000 panel solar farm

As many as 200 people may be put to work on controversial Town of Holland project that will take more than a year
Ozaukee Press staff

Construction of the 1,000-acre Onion River Solar, a 150-megawatt solar farm in the Town of Holland, began in earnest this week.

It’s expected that construction will take until the end of 2023, Tony Palese, a spokesman for Alliant Energy, said Monday.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said, estimating that as many as 200 people could be on site at any one time as construction ramps up.

Palese said that crews began doing prep work late last week — work that includes grading, installing driveways and clearing brush.

That work, he said, will likely continue through fall.

As the prep work is done, Palese said, crews will do electrical and structural work, including driving piles and racking.

Palese said it’s expected that crews will drive 70,000 to 80,000 piles to anchor 387,000 solar panels.

The racking structures, which allow the solar panels to rotate and keeps them off the ground, will be attached to the pilings, he said.

The work may be done in phases, he said, and it is likely to continue through winter.

Work on the piles and racks is expected to be completed in late spring or early summer, Palese said, after which the solar panels and inverters will be installed. Testing and commissioning will follow.

The solar farm is expected to be online by the end of 2023, Palese said.

While many businesses have been impacted by supply chain issues, Palese said the Onion River project is not expected to be.

Onion River Solar will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes in the area and throughout the Midwest power grid, he said.

It is one of 12 utility-scaled solar projects Alliant is building, Palese said, adding a couple of these projects are expected to go online this year.

They are part of the utility’s Clean Energy Blueprint for Wisconsin, which will add nearly 1,100 megawatts of solar energy to the grid by the end of 2023.

The Onion River project, which is being developed by Brooklyn, N.Y.,-based Ranger Power for Alliant Energy, has proven controversial in the Town of Holland since it was proposed.

Those opposed to it argue it will destroy the bucolic atmosphere they value, impact property values and have a negative impact on wildlife in the area while those who favor it point to the fact it will produce green energy, provide a steady source of income to farmers renting their land to the firm and be a financial boon to the town and Sheboygan County.

When it was proposed, Ranger Power described the project as a $150 million investment.

The company signed 40-year leases with more than a dozen landowners, something some opponents of the plan decried, noting that the firm had rental agreements in hand before the proposed project was widely known, limiting their ability to object.

Ranger Power also negotiated a development agreement with the town and Sheboygan County that strives to mitigate the impact of the solar farm on neighboring property owners, requiring larger setbacks from their homes to the facility while allowing smaller setbacks to those who are renting their land.

The agreement also calls for landscaping, fencing and positioning the solar panels to reduce glare and requires the land used for the solar farm be restored to usable farmland when the facility is no longer in use.

The agreement provides that the Cedar Grove-Belgium and Oostburg school districts and Lakeshore Technical College be paid whatever tax revenues they lose due to the solar field by Ranger Power, which will also pay the town $250,000 annually and the county $350,000 annually in shared revenue.



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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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