The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, in an April 18 final decision, approved – subject to conditions – Badger Hollow Solar Farm, LLC’s June 2018 application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to build a new solar photovoltaic (PV) electric generation facility.
As noted in the decision, the facility will be a wholesale merchant plant and have a generating capacity of up to 408 MW direct current (DC), and up to 300 MW alternating current (AC).
The project will be located on about 3,500 acres of primarily agricultural land in Iowa County, Wis., the commission said in its decision, noting that the major components of the project include the PV panels, power conversion units (PCU), collection lines, a collector substation, as well as an operations and maintenance (O&M) building.
The facility will be located in the village of Cobb, and the towns of Mifflin, Eden, and Linden. While Badger Hollow has not yet determined the manufacturer and model of panels that it will use for the project, it estimates that it will use between 900,000 and 1,200,000 panels to obtain a DC output of up to 408 MW, the commission added. The panels will connect to a single-axis tracking system that will allow the PV panels to follow the sun from east to west throughout the day.
The commission also said that the two main components of the PCUs are the inverters and pad-mounted transformers, which will be required to convert the generated DC power in AC power and step up the voltage to 34.5 kV. The capacity of the PCUs will total up to 300 MW AC, the commission said, adding that the underground AC collection lines will carry the power generated by the PV panels to the collector substation. The collector lines will total about 55 miles and consist of 15 feeders. The commission also said that the solar PV array will connect to a new 34.5-kV/138-kV project collector substation.
If approved, two Wisconsin public utilities propose to purchase a portion of the Badger Hollow project and the associated generation tie line. The commission added that it is reviewing the proposed acquisition and that based upon the record, it appears that the utilities’ current plan is to acquire a portion of the Badger Hollow project prior to the completion of construction with the assumption the commission approves the projects and other conditions precedent to closing are satisfied.
The transmission interconnection facilities requirements for the project are being determined through the Midcontinent ISO generator interconnection queue study process, the commission said, adding that Badger Hollow filed interconnection requests with MISO and is in the MISO August 2017 DPP Study Cycle, with the assigned queue position of J870 and J871. For each queue position, Badger Hollow requested 200 MW and 100 MW, respectively, the commission said, adding that at the time of its final decision, the reviews of queue positions J870 and J871 are not far enough along in the study process to provide specific answers from MISO or the transmission owner about what transmission or interconnection facilities upgrades are required. The Phase I study results were completed in January, the commission said, noting that further study results and a signed generator interconnection agreement are forthcoming.
Among other things, the commission said that it finds that the design and location of the project is in the public interest, considering individual hardship, economic, safety, reliability, and environmental factors. While there will be changes to the landscape and environment as a result of the project, those impacts can be mitigated through the imposed conditions, the commission said.
Discussing conditions related to project construction, the commission said that given the size of the project and the uncertainties regarding eventual decommissioning, it finds it reasonable to require Badger Hollow to submit a proposed decommissioning plan for the commission’s review and approval.
Also, given the project is one of the first of its kind in Wisconsin, to ensure public safety and to facilitate possible mitigation of any impacts from stray voltage on agricultural animals, the commission finds it reasonable to require Badger Hollow to work with the applicable distribution utility to test for stray voltage at each agricultural confined animal operation within the project area, prior to construction and after the project is energized.
Among other things, the commission also said that given the uncertainty regarding avian mortality associated with solar facilities, as well as the potential risk to migratory birds, the commission finds it reasonable to require Badger Hollow to work with the commission and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop and conduct a post-construction avian mortality study.
As noted in the decision, Badger Hollow is an affiliate of Invenergy LLC.