WEPCO deal would generate cash for village

Company’s plan to install 2,000 solar panels on vacant site calls for giving Saukville $21,356 in annual lease payments
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

Village of Saukville trustees last week agreed in concept to lease land to Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (WEPCO) so the firm can erect about 2,000 solar panels on a vacant site east of the village water treatment plant.

If finalized, the project would be one of the first in the state built under WEPCO’s Solar Now program, which the state Public Service Commission approved in December.

Under what is also known as the Rent-a-Roof program, the company leases property or space, including roofs, from governments, schools or non-profits like churches, for solar panels, allowing them to benefit from solar energy despite being unable to take advantage of federal tax credits, since they pay no taxes.

Under the preliminary agreement with the village, WEPCO, the parent company of We Energies, would pay the village $21,356 per year. The proposed lease is for 30 years.

The site would consist of around 2,000 solar panels, which would generate 490 kilowatts, enough to power about 100 houses, WEPCO spokesman Brendan Conway said. 

The energy produced would be added to the general grid and not be used to help power the treatment plant or other village operations.

The agreement is contingent on WEPCO completing its site assessment and engineering work, which Conway said should be done by early September.

WEPCO recently announced its first Solar Now project in the New Berlin School District, which will involve erecting 8,000 solar panels on the roofs of three school buildings, generating 2,000 kilowatts, Conway said.

Village President Barb Dickmann said the village approached WEPCO after she read about the program. 

“I thought it would be a good idea for the village to investigate,” Dickmann said. “I believe it is important for the village to take a lead in new and exciting opportunities such as this one.”

Dickmann said it’s undetermined how the funds will be used by the village.

Conway said other projects could be built in Ozaukee County. Company officials have already had meetings in Port Washington on doing something similar there, he said.

Interest in the program has been high, according to Conway. “We’re anticipating dozens of customers,” he said.

The PSC approved that the company could generate up to 35 megawatts through the program. But if all proposals made so far to WEPCO were approved, including from 42 governments and schools, it would be enough to generate 90 megawatts, he said.

“It’s an exciting and innovative program,” Conway said.

The program has not been without controversy, however.

Clean-energy advocates say they support the expansion of solar in WEPCO’s service territory. But others fear the program pits WEPCO against third-party solar-energy providers and gives the company too much control over the market.

For instance, Eagle Point Solar LLC, based in Dubuque, Iowa, sued We Energies and the PSC in May after the utility refused to let solar arrays on Milwaukee city buildings connect to its power grid.

A similar lawsuit in Iowa in 2014 made it to that state’s high court, which issued a legal victory for Eagle Point against Alliant Energy Corp. 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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