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Dane County budget calls for record infrastructure spending, largest regional solar farm

Dane County plans to spend record amounts in 2019 on infrastructure and help build one of the largest solar farms in the state, according to a budget proposal from County Executive Joe Parisi.

Beyond having the county work with Madison Gas and Electric on a solar farm that would power a quarter of all operations owned by the county, the budget proposal would set aside about $42 million for infrastructure, including $20 million for an expansion of Dane County Regional Airport’s terminal.

To be adopted, Parisi’s budget proposal must still be approved by the Dane County Board. A vote on it is likely to take place later this fall.

Solar projects

Dane County plans to install 20,000 solar panels on 41 acres of land at the Dane County Regional Airport. The project is expected to generate about 8 megawatts of power, three times more than the largest solar project in the region, a 2.2 megawatt array in Rock County. The solar project will be the third undertaken at the county airport.

The work is being guided by an agreement between MGE and Dane County. According to the deal, MGE will own infrastructure placed on land leased from Dane County. Both MGE and the county plan to increase their reliance on renewable energy. Dane County plans to eventually receive all of its power from renewable energy and MGE plans to reduce its carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030 below its levels in 2005.

The project requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Public Service Commission and could begin in 2019 if the agencies sign off. It would employ local electricians and construction workers.

“Dane County is a nationally-recognized leader in renewable energy adoption and innovation. From the hardest-working landfill in the state, to what will be one of the largest solar farms in the state, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” Parisi said in a statement. “This historic solar farm will help increase local clean energy jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce the tax burden on Dane County residents through lower energy bills.”

The budget also includes $435,000 for the county’s first “clean, green park,” which entails adding solar panels to Lake Farm County Park. Those panels would provide power to the Lussier Family Heritage Center and campground. The budget would also set aside $30,000 for Dane County parks offices on Robertson Road.

Infrastructure work

Meanwhile, Dane County’s budget proposes a record-high amount for new projects.

Parisi’s 2019 budget would set aside $27.7 million in the county’s highway capital budget and $22 million for new projects. The budget would designate $6 million for a reconstruction of Fish Hatchery Road, a project that is awaiting an agreement with the city of Fitchburg, and $1.6 million to rebuild Buckeye Road, pending a similar agreement with Madison.

The budget would also set aside $20 million for work on the Dane County Regional Airport terminal, a project that could ultimately cost more than $50 million. The airport has seen an 8 percent increase in traffic in 2018 from the year before.

The project would expand the main terminal, add new more space to the airport concourse, install new gates to attract additional flights and work on security, lighting and bathrooms.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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