TOWN OF HALLIE, Wisconsin: An expansive solar field on 20 acres of private property in the town of Hallie is the product of a partnership among three solar energy companies to further build up an existing energy grid.
Dairyland Power Cooperative, with headquarters in La Crosse, reached a 25-year purchase agreement with Chicago-based SoCore Energy — which owns and operates the Lafayette Solar array located along Highway OO — to generate solar power that feeds into a grid.
Eau Claire Energy Cooperative is one of Dairyland’s 24 coop members in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota and will buy energy from Lafayette Solar and resell to customers.
“Dairyland’s business is to generate the energy and sell it to us,” said Lynn Thompson, chief executive officer of the energy cooperative. “We’re retail; they’re wholesale.”
The site in the town of Hallie can generate about 1.2 megawatts of energy between its 3,996 solar panels. The power from that array would offset the power consumption of about 200 to 300 homes in the area, said SoCore Project Manager Andy Seward.
Dairyland is currently working on building three more solar arrays in Wisconsin to bring the total to 15 by the end of this year. Construction on an array in New Auburn will start soon, Seward said.
Once all 15 arrays are up and running, the power they generate could serve nearly 5,000 households.
“There’s a lot of challenges along the way, but it’s been well worth it,” Thompson said. “It’s a great project to have right here in our community.”
State Rep. Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer), whose district is just outside where the array is located, said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) was the first time he visited a solar array, which he said was an impressive sight.
“It’s just encouraging that these cooperatives are on their own going out and making these investments,” he said. “That’s where you like to see government step back and let them work because they’re the experts in this industry.”
Eau Claire Energy Cooperative helped SoCore find a site on which to build the array, taking infrastructure and customer load into consideration.
“We have great spots in the town of Wilson, but it’s rural and there’s not many customers out there,” Thompson said. “There’s no place for the energy to go.”
The solar panels, which sit on about 7.5 acres on the 20-acre site, are basically semiconductors with elements that allow electrons to be knocked loose by sun particles, explained SoCore Senior Project Manager Jonathan Roberts.
“Once that electron is knocked loose, we can put it on a circuit,” Roberts said. “We combine a bunch of circuits and they combine the electrons into a stream and the stream becomes a big river as we combine the panels together.”