Wisconsin may be known for cheese, but Madison, Wisconsin-based Alliant Energy has its sights set on the sun. Alliant is gearing up to make solar energy more accessible to its customers across the state. The public utility company confirmed in a press release that its patrons can now purchase shares in the 1-megawatt (MW) project that will be located near Fond du Lac.
The company, which is the second-largest utility in the state with more than 475,000 Wisconsin customers, anticipates construction to begin in the spring and wrap up by the end of 2021. Alliant also serves nearly 492,000 customers in Iowa. The company notes that the solar garden is being built on land leased from Brownsville, Wisconsin, utility contractor Michels Corporation.
President of Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin energy company David de Leon said, “We are excited that our customers can sign up for our first community solar project and enjoy the benefits of receiving clean, renewable energy. We anticipate that all blocks will be sold quickly due to a high level of participation and interest from customers.”
Purchasing shares in the project will be a great option for customers to reap the benefits of solar without having panels installed on their roofs, Alliant Energy emphasized in its release. It could be a good option for those seeking a cheaper alternative to rooftop solar, renters, or people who live in heavily-shaded homes. Enrollment is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Fond du Lac project is just the tip of the iceberg for Alliant’s solar plans. The company noted that the public can expect to see “multiple” other community solar sites open across Wisconsin and Iowa in the future. It adds that the Fond du Lac project has been in the works for months and that there is a lot of excitement among the community.
“Our Fond du Lac area electric customers have expressed a strong interest in participating,” said Alliant Energy Senior Key Account Manager for the Fond du Lac area Kathy Leifer. “We have been informally discussing it with customers, and there is a lot of energy and excitement among homeowners and business owners to become involved.”
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that a filing with state regulators indicates that the company plans to market the project to local businesses and about 12,000 Fond du Lac area customers “with a high green propensity.”
“Having a community solar project for our residents and business owners to participate in will be a benefit to the environment and our local economy,” said Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel.
As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, participation is open to all of the utility company’s Wisconsin customers, and shares can be bought “for $1,500 per kilowatt — available in 250-watt blocks for up to 100 percent of their annual use.” Residential customers who participate will receive 6.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in bill credits for generated energy and commercial customers will be credited 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, the publication writes.
“They [customers] receive a credit on their monthly electric bills for every block of energy purchased,” Alliant stated in the release. The credits begin once the facility is in service and will last for 20 years. Participants will realize cost savings over the life of the solar facility.”
Alliant projects it will take around 14-16 years to recover the initial investment, indicating that customers “could expect a 30 percent to 40 percent return over the 20-year contract,” Regular retail rates will still apply to energy customers’ use (around 11.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential), the publication notes.
Alliant confirmed that its community solar program supports its Clean Energy Vision and its ambitious goal to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from its electricity generated by 2050. The initiative is part of the Clean Energy Blueprint, which lays out the company’s plans for accelerating toward renewable energy.
Alliant Energy employs nearly 3,600 and reported year-end 2019 operating revenues of $3.6 billion. The company has a total of 971,301 electric customers and 417,322 natural gas customers. In May, the company announced six new Wisconsin solar projects, also part of its Clean Energy Blueprint, and the first stage of a commitment to install 1,000 MW of solar in the state by 2023. Alliant said that it expects the projects to create more than 1,200 local construction jobs.