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PSC approves $116M Apple River Solar farm in Polk County

Wisconsin regulators on Thursday signed off on the Apple River Solar farm, a 100-megawatt array to be built in Polk County.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission unanimously approved the solar array, which would occupy about 1,000 acres in the northwestern Wisconsin village of Apple River.

The developer National Grid Renewables, of Bloomington, Minnesota, could begin work on the new solar farm as soon as this fall. National Grid also saw the PSC sign off on the 100-megawatt Springfield Solar Farm in Dodge County — a project that drew opposition from residents and the village of Lomira.

Although some residents objected to the new solar array, the developer reached agreements with Polk County and other local governments affected by the project. The solar farm would generate about $400,000 annually in payments to local governments — or about $10 million over 25 years — and would be built on land that’s being entirely leased to the developer.

“There are some nearby neighbors that oppose the project,” said PSC Commissioner Tyler Huebner. “But as far as the siting goes, this is a very rural area.”

National Grid Renewables is developing the solar farm as a so-called merchant plant, meaning the PSC was under no obligation to take into account economic considerations or the need for the project when it granted approval Thursday. Those aspects of the project will instead come up once a utility seeks permission to buy power produced by the solar array.

The developer expects the project to cost about $116 million and wrap up next year.

It’s the latest in a series of utility-scale solar projects to earn approval in recent years as Wisconsin utilities develop solar energy to move away from coal-fired power.

PSC Chair Rebecca Valcq said the agency has recently been dealing with an unprecedented number of permit requests for large solar farms, called a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. “Twenty years ago, this agency was not processing a CPCN every week,” she said.

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