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Sunflower II Site Visits

MEDIA CONTACT:  Dana Bolwerk, Communications & Events Coordinator
715-796-7000, ext. 613
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Groups Get First-Hand Look at 2.34 MW Solar Array

Project managers, supporters travel from Minnesota, La Crosse, Madison, Chicago to see Sunflower II


HAMMOND, Wis., Nov. 16, 2016 – On Nov. 14, nearly 70 individuals took advantage of opportunities to be on-site at a utility solar array still under construction. Representatives from St. Croix Electric Cooperative (Hammond, Wis.), Dairyland Power Cooperative (La Crosse, Wis.), SoCore Energy (Chicago) and Faith Technologies (Menasha, Wis.) guided groups around the 2.34 megawatt (MW) Sunflower II solar array site.

The site visits occurred less than a week after Dairyland announced three utility-scale solar generation projects, bringing Dairyland’s total number of utility-scale solar installations under contract to 15, with an overall generation capacity of 20 MW (14 sites in Wisconsin, one site in northeast Iowa). Michael Vickerman, program & policy director for RENEW Wisconsin, put into context the impact of Dairyland’s program on solar generation in Wisconsin.

“At the beginning of the year, (Sunflower II) would have represented about 10 percent of solar installed in Wisconsin,” he said. “This (20 MW) build out by Dairyland close to doubles the amount of solar capacity in the state.”

RENEW Wisconsin estimates nearly 50 MW of solar generation will be online in Wisconsin by April 2017. Dairyland projects will account for nearly 40 percent of that total. In recognition of their commitment to diversifying their generation portfolio, Dairyland’s CEO Barbara Nick will be a keynote speakers at the RENEW Wisconsin 2017 Energy Policy Summit on Jan. 19, 2017, in Madison.

Jonathan Roberts, senior project manager for SoCore, noted Dairyland is not unlike many utilities across the United States working to have a balance of multiple sources for power generation.

“The more diverse you are, the better off you are,” he said.


Local renewable energy project

Earlier this year, SCEC purchased 20 acres of land for Sunflower II. SCEC will lease the land to SoCore Energy, who was selected as the developer for the project by Dairyland. SoCore then selected Faith Technologies as the general contractor. Once Sunflower II is energized, the electricity it generates will be fed into the existing infrastructure, powering the homes and businesses of SCEC members served by the Warren substation. Craig Harmes, manager of business development for Dairyland, said having 15 sites for arrays spread throughout Wisconsin and Iowa makes it easier to integrate the projects into its system.

“The different locations optimize reliability and take advantage of diversified weather,” he said.

Case-in-point: As Harmes was speaking those words, it was overcast and blustery in the Town of Warren. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) was hosting its annual meeting in Stevens Point, where the sun was shining.

Harmes said the electricity generated by Sunflower II will be used locally within SCEC’s service territory. The substation across the road from the solar array distributes electricity to more than 1,000 SCEC members, including high consumption members, such as County Materials, Pilot Flying J Travel Plaza, and U.S. Minerals.


Educating the next generation

The morning of Nov. 14, began with students from Dakota County Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker program (Rosemount, Minn.) touring the solar array site and nearby substation. Students were divided into two groups and spent more than 90 minutes walking around and learning about the different parts of the solar array and how the array ties into SCEC and Dairyland’s distribution and transmission systems.

Among the group of students was Kevin Catts, of Deer Park, who was one of SCEC’s 2016 Continuing Education Scholarship recipients. Kyle Levra, of Clear Lake, was also a recipient and is attending DCTC, but was unable to make the Nov. 14 event. Catts said he knows SCEC Journeyman Lineworker Kenny Buhr and knew, after high school, he didn’t want to be behind a desk.

“This has been really interesting. It’s nice to get out of the classroom and see how everything works,” he said.

Sunflower II is expected to be energized before the end of the year and will utilize tracking technology to track the sun’s path across the sky. Additional array facts include:

  • 9,360   panels

  • 310      watts per panel; each panel is 3’ x 6’

  • 65        Chint Power Systems (CPS) inverters (36 kW, each)

  • 131      NEXTracker single-axis trackers

  • 1,433   driven piles

  • 20-acre site

  • 16-acre pollinator meadow

    • Seeding will take place after construction is complete.

    • Prairie Restorations, Inc., will complete the work.


DEVELOPER: SoCore Energy | Chicago                                            
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Faith Technologies | Menasha, Wis.     

POWER PURCHASER: Dairyland Power Cooperative | La Crosse, Wis.
SERVICE TERRITORY: St. Croix Electric Cooperative | Hammond, Wis.


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