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Regulators OK projects promising to increase solar generation five fold

Wisconsin utility regulators on Thursday approved a series of solar-energy proposals that renewable-energy advocates contend will lead to a five-fold increase in solar generation in the state.

Largeest of the projects is the Badger Hollow Solar Farm, which promises to bring 300 megawatts of generation to Iowa County and be the biggest solar project in the Midwest when completed. According to plans approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, power from the Badger Hollow farm will be sent through a “tie line” to a nearby substation and, from there, into the electrical grid serving southwest Wisconsin.

Also approved was the Two Creeks Solar Project, which will have 150 megawatts of generation installed in Manitowoc County. Both projects are expected to be finished by the middle of 2021.

Under a third proposal accepted by regulators on Thursday, the Two Creeks project will eventually be sold in its entirety to two Wisconsin utilities – Wisconsin Public Service in Green Bay and Madison Gas & Electric in Madison. The same approval will let those same two companies acquire a 150-megawatt share of the Badger Hollow farm.

The renewable-energy group RENEW Wisconsin estimates the state had 103 megawatts of solar generation by the end of 2018. The projects approved on Thursday would add 450 megawatts to that, enough to supply 1.3 percent of the power used annually in Wisconsin.

Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, said he was glad to see that regulators believe solar power has become cheap enough for utilities to incorporate into the generation they charge ratepayers for.

“Solar energy is a smart choice to meet the electricity needs of our citizens, businesses, and organizations, and without a state mandate to do so,” Huebner said in an official statement. “With solar energy, we will produce homegrown, healthy energy right here in Wisconsin for years to come, and provide substantial economic benefits to the landowners and local governments who will host these projects.”

Also on Thursday, regulators approved the utility company We Energies’ plan to lay down a $31 million natural-gas pipeline near where Foxconn is building a massive manufacturing and research complex in Racine County. The pipeline will connect with an existing main at Meacham Road in Mount Pleasant and go west for more than 8 miles.

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