Solar energy project is approved

By JAMES KATES / The Capstone

A new crop of solar-energy panels may begin sprouting on farmland in the Town of Jefferson as soon as this summer after the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved development of a 500-acre photovoltaic project by Crawfish River Solar LLC.

Supervisors approved the plan on a unanimous voice vote. Crawfish River Solar will build the facility and sell it to Alliant Energy Corp. of Madison, which will operate the site for its expected life of 30 years.

The 75-megawatt project will produce enough electricity to power 10,000 homes. It will consist of solar cells that will tilt to follow the sun during the day. Rows of solar panels about as high as cornstalks will be spaced far enough apart to allow pickup trucks and other maintenance vehicles to drive through.

The area will be planted with native grasses, and the leased farmland will be restored to its original condition when the project is decommissioned.

The project site is located south of state Highway 18 in an area bordered by county Highways G, J and Q. It is about two miles west of the City of Jefferson.

The facility will provide financial benefits to the county and the town. As with all power plants in the state, the Crawfish River project will pay state utility taxes, and those revenues will be shared with local governments. Jefferson County will receive about $175,000 per year, and the Town of Jefferson will get about $125,000 per year.

The area is home to a similar, larger proposed project also being developed by parent company Ranger Power. The 1,200-acre Badger State Solar project is on hold until 2023 while developers complete an environmental impact statement to qualify for federal financing. The Badger State facility, whose sites would be north and south of Highway 18, would produce electricity for the Dairyland Power Cooperative.

Courthouse renovations

In other action Tuesday, supervisors approved a $150,000 extension of a contract with consultant Potter Lawson & Partners to look at possible upgrades for the 60-year-old Jefferson County Courthouse.

Electrical, plumbing and heating / air conditioning systems in the courthouse are at the end of their useful life and are needing more maintenance. Renovations to courtrooms, the Sheriff’s Department and jail also are being weighed. Any new construction would have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act to provide handicap access.

Absent a clear plan, no specific price has been put on the project, but an estimate last fall put the cost at $33 million, including $17 million for the new mechanical systems.

Supervisor Jim Braughler of Watertown expressed concerns about the project cost, saying he would vote against it in the long run if the price tag were not brought down. “We need to trim,” Braughler said.

Also on Tuesday:

  • The County Board heard from two circuit judges in support of the county’s Alcohol Treatment Court, which allows repeat drunken-driving offenders to avoid jail time by agreeing to undergo treatment, monitoring and counseling. Judge Ben Brantmeier expressed hope that the alcohol court could be integrated with Family Court, because many family-law cases stem from alcohol abuse. Judge Robert Dehring noted that the alcohol court reduced costs to the county and improved public safety. Once the offenders are “in and enrolled, it’s likely that they won’t reoffend,” Dehring said.
  • The board denied a claim by John Ebbott of Helenville for replacement of a mailbox destroyed by snowplowing operations. Ebbott spoke during the public comment period to suggest that snowplow operators be trained so they “don’t come along and wipe out mailboxes.” Highway Department officials said Ebbott’s mailbox was not hit by a snowplow, but rather was destroyed when a wall of snow hit it during plowing operations.
  • The board approved a proclamation congratulating the Lake Mills High School girls basketball team on winning the Division 3 state basketball championship.
  • Supervisors approved a resolution proclaiming April 2021 as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

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