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Columbia County solar project questions unanswered

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Michael Schonasky of Randolph takes a look at the project details provided by Langdon Mills Solar at the open house in Cambria Monday night.

Langdon Mills Solar held an open house in Cambria Monday night to get information to citizens about project planned in eastern Columbia County, but officials were reluctant to answer questions.

The open house was held at the Cambria Fire Hall Community room. Langdon Mills Solar is owned and operated by Samsung C&T America.

Initially the project was set to be sited on up 4,000 acres of privately-owned agriculture land in the town of Courtland. Langdon Mills officials said the project is not scaled down but is currently set to use approximately 2,000 acres.

Langdon Mills contractors and team members would not answer any questions from the Daily Register Monday night. Teresa Nicholson said questions must be emailed to a media representative. There was no response as of 5 p.m., Tuesday to questions emailed Tuesday morning.

Michael Schonasky of Randolph attended the open house. He said he has concerns about the project, but supports solar energy.

“I’m for the solar project,” Schonasky said. “I’m for green sources of energy, but I don’t want to look at it.”

Schonasky said Langdon Mills has offered to plant trees in the area to make the solar panels less visible.

“I’m all for it if they can plant trees around the project,” he said.

The material provided Monday night included a statement from Samsung C&T Director of Renewable Energy Team Hanjoo Jun.

“Langdon Mills Solar is in the early stages of development in Columbia County Wisconsin,” Jun said in a prepared statement. “This solar project will bring multiple benefits to the local community and the state of Wisconsin. We are excited to bring this development to Wisconsin and look forward to being a partner in the community for years to come.”

There is a citizen’s group that has organized against the proposed solar project. Representatives from the group attended the open house looking for answers and handed out flyers about the group and their opposition to the project.

The flyer said the proposed project could be operational as early as next year and listed concerns with the project. They included:

  • Farmland landscape could be affected for over 30 years
  • Risk of fire with limited access for firefighters due to a proposed 8-foot fence
  • Obstruction of wildlife patterns
  • Negative impact on property values
  • Loss of crop production
  • Loss of rich top soil after project is completed

Some of these concerns are expected to be addressed by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which reviews solar project applications. Langdon Mills Solar will submit a full application once the design and layout have been completed.

Langdon Mills expects the lifespan of the panels to be about 35 years. At a citizen’s group meeting in February, members believed the land lease contracts were for 30 years.

Langdon Mills did not answer any questions about the length of the land leases for the solar project.

Recently, in a similar project in Dane County a group opposed to a solar project has found a section in the state constitution which states agriculture land can only be leased for a maximum of 15 years.

In Article 1, Section 14 states, “All lands within the state are declared to be allodial, and feudal tenures are prohibited. Leases and grants of agricultural land for a longer term than fifteen years in which rent or service of any kind shall be reserved, and all fines and like restraints upon alienation reserved in any grant of land, hereafter made, are declared to be void.”

Opponents of the Dane County project have stated the 25-year land lease contracts should be classified as null and void due to the state constitution section.

Langdon Mills did provide a list of local economic benefits to the project which include more than 150 construction jobs for Columbia County and 10 long-term employees when the project is completed.

The project is expected to be operational in 2024 and could generate over 400 megawatts.

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