Solar power fields in the works for Chippewa County

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Xcel Energy is looking to harness the power of the sun for the first time in Wisconsin.

A 3.5 megawatt solar generation plant is being proposed on a forty acre parcel of land in Chippewa County.

The facility, which would be located east of Xcel Energy's Wheaton generating station, needs approval from the Chippewa County Zoning and Planning Committee.

While the site is approved for industrial use it's not approved for solar panel use.

If approved Xcel Energy hopes to begin construction early this summer and have the plant running by the end of the year.

Media relations representative Christine Ouellette says the plant would serve all customers in the northern part of the service territory.

“A 3.5 megawatt facility would serve about 700 homes but this facility would just go into the power grid so all our customers in the northern part of the Xcel Energy service territory, including our customers in Minnesota, will benefit from this power,” explained Ouellette.

Ouellette says if there are increases on bills it would be minimal since costs would be shared among approximately 2 million customers.

She says this facility would be a pilot project to see if solar energy could be a significant source of power moving forward.

“Our customers have been asking for more renewable energy and that's exactly what this is,” said Ouellette. “We, in Wisconsin, have about a 25 percent renewable energy mix for our customers with the goal of moving up to 35 percent and building a solar facility such as this will help us achieve what our customer wants and our company goals.”

There is a second proposal by SoCore Energy for a solar panel field in the town of Hallie.

Both solar energy projects are on the agenda of the Chippewa County Zoning and Planning Committee.

That meeting is taking place Thursday, Feb. 18th, at 7pm, in the Chippewa County Courthouse.

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