Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Planning Three Acre Solar Farm

We Energies would install a solar array on unused land at Oakwood Park Golf Course.

By - Apr 9th, 2021 03:25 pm
Layout of the planned solar array at Oakwood Park Golf Course. Image from SunVest Solar/Milwaukee County,.

Layout of the planned solar array at Oakwood Park Golf Course. Image from SunVest Solar/Milwaukee County,.

Milwaukee County Parks is planning to partner with We Energies on the installation of the county’s largest solar array on three acres of land at Oakwood Park Golf Course, at 3600 W. Oakwood Rd. in Franklin.

The proposed project would be part of the energy company’s Solar Now Program. It’s a pilot-program approved by the state’s Public Service Commission that allows We Energies to partner with governments, nonprofits and businesses to install solar arrays on unused land or on top of existing infrastructure, producing clean energy for the grid.

The company recently completed a Solar Now project with the City of Milwaukee, installing a 7,000 panel, 2.5 megawatt solar array on land that was once a city-owned landfill. The Oakwood installation would be a 540 kilowatt array, or approximately .54 megawatts, according to the parks department.

The city project produces enough energy to power 500 homes. Based upon that estimation, the county project would produce enough energy to power approximately 100 homes.

This array would not be the county’s first solar installation. It has 10 other installations, though they are small compared to what is proposed for the Oakwood array. The county’s largest installations, to date, are a 10 kilowatt installation at the Milwaukee County Zoo and another 10 kilowatt array at the county’s Central Garage.

Jeremy Lucas, director of administration and planning for parks, said the department has been looking to “diversify and green up our energy sources” in general. Then in 2020, the county’s Office of Sustainability highlighted the new Solar Now program and the department started looking for possible locations soon after.

The Oakwood site was eventually found to be the most feasible for a solar project, given its relatively secluded location surrounded by trees on three sides, a paved service road along the western edge and the ease with which We Energies could connect the panels to its energy grid.

Parks is still working out the lease and land use agreements. But Solar Now projects involve We Energies making annual lease payments to whatever entity is hosting the panels. Brendan Conway, a spokesperson for We Energies, said the lease agreements for Solar Now Projects are typically between 20 and 30 years.

Lucas said the payments to the county would likely be in the range of $25,000 a year. But that estimate, he said, could also be less if the county opts to take a renewable energy credit. The credit is a legal mechanism used to keep track of who can claim credit for generating the renewable energy.

Lucas said the project is in line with the county’s strategic plan to become the healthiest county in Wisconsin. The production of clean, renewable energy is a step towards eliminating the root cause of pollution that has been connected to racial health disparities.

The project still has to go before the County Board, and its Parks, Energy and Environment Committee. At a meeting of the County Facilities Planning Steering Committee Thursday, Lucas said the project could be completed this year, potentially during the fall. We Energies would contract with Pewaukee based SunVest Solar for the installation.

Since the Solar Now pilot-program was approved in 2018, We Energies has completed 16 projects with local governments, school districts and businesses around the state, and it has another three under construction, Conway said.

In the Milwaukee area, along with the city project, the company recently installed 8,000 solar panels on top of Harley-Davidson’s Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility in Menomonee Falls.

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