New solar farm powering hundreds of Scenic Rivers members

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The Mount Hope solar farm went live on property owned by Bob and Sharon Wood, north of U.S. Highway 18, in February. The solar array is owned by SoCore and the electricity is contracted to Dairyland Power and Scenic Rivers Energy cooperatives.

By Correne Martin

The solar farm near Mount Hope has been attracting quite a lot of attention in recent months. It just went live in February. The 1.25 megawatt solar installation is said to power about 300 homes for one year, according to Steve Lucas, CEO of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, of Lancaster.

Dairyland Power Cooperative has a 25-year purchase power agreement with owner and solar developer SoCore Energy, of Chicago. Scenic Rivers also has a 25-year contract, for .25 megawatts, or 250 kilowatts.

Dairyland is a La Crosse wholesale electricity provider that serves distribution cooperatives and municipal utilities across Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. Scenic Rivers is a retail service provider servicing 13,000-plus members in the counties of Crawford, Grant and Lafayette and the neighboring communities. Dairyland will direct its 1 megawatt of power generated at the farm to Scenic Rivers.

“What makes this project so great for our members is that they’re getting the benefit of these solar panels, of the green energy, at no added expense,” Lucas said. “There’s no infrastructure expense to the members of Scenic Rivers and no maintenance costs either. It’s very beneficial to the members across our system that we provide safe, affordable energy, but we are also trying to be good to our environment. I know Dairyland is always trying to add to its renewable portfolio.”

The property leased by SoCore for the farm is owned by Bob and Sharon Woods, of Mount Hope. According to area news reports, the lease more than offsets the income of crop sales.

“We were working on this project for almost two years,” Lucas said. “When Dairyland went out for 18 to 20 megawatts of solar (including 14 other installations), we jumped at the opportunity to get involved.”

He also explained the reasons why the property was chosen to lease for the solar array: “Its proximity to the Mount Hope substation and to the distribution line it’s connected to, and because of the load factors on that line.”

SoCore contracted with electrical, engineering and technology systems firm Faith Technologies, of Menasha, to install the panels. Reports say the solar farm is also to incorporate bee and butterfly habitat, as SoCore intends to plant native grasses and forbs to create pollinator gardens at the site to sustain populations and reduce stormwater runoff.

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