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Regulators approve Polk County solar facility, deny funding to opponents of Cambridge project
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Regulators approve Polk County solar facility, deny funding to opponents of Cambridge project

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State utility regulators have approved another large-scale solar farm in northwestern Wisconsin while denying funding to two opponents of a proposed Dane County solar project.

The Public Service Commission voted unanimously to issue a permit for the Apple River Solar Project, a 100-megawatt facility to be constructed on about 700 acres of Polk County farmland northeast of Amery.

A project of National Grid Renewables, the plant is expected to generate enough energy to supply more than 27,000 typical Wisconsin homes. National Grid has not identified a buyer for the power.

The project is the 11th large-scale solar plant the PSC has approved since 2019. They will have a combined capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts, about 12% of the state’s current total.

PSC Chair Rebecca Valcq said the commission has processed more construction permits in the past two years than any time in the last 20 years.

The commission also rejected funding requests from two opponents of the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center, a proposed 465-megawatt solar and storage facility near the village of Cambridge.

The village requested just over $60,000 to pay for attorneys and an expert witness to fight the project, which would cover much of a 417-acre area to the west that the village has designated for residential development.

According to the application, the Village Board did not learn of the project in time to budget funds to fight it. The board reallocated $10,000 to cover expenses but has already spent most of that.

Valcq said she was inclined to grant the request, but Commissioner Ellen Nowak opposed it, saying it’s unclear how the money would be spent and that the village should have been aware of the project.

“To me, it was more a lack of proper planning on their part,” Nowak said. “I don’t want to send a signal that villages and municipalities can just wait.”

Commissioner Tyler Huebner, who publicly supported the project before being appointed to the PSC, has recused himself from the permitting decision.

The commission also denied a request for $7,250 by a neighboring landowner who said he needed the money to fund research into the safety and reliability of solar energy.

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