UW–Madison and Alliant Energy collaborate on solar and agricultural research project

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Alliant Energy will partner on a solar and agricultural research project to be established on land owned by the university just west of Lake Kegonsa.

The UW System Board of Directors has approved an application by UW-Madison to enter into a lease agreement with Alliant Energy and continue development of the Solar and Agricultural Research Project at their Kegonsa Research Campus.

“The project builds on UW-Madison’s legacy of environmental stewardship in a very interesting way,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said. “It advances clean energy, cultivates innovative research and creates new learning opportunities. This gives our students and faculty the opportunity to study the interactions between soil, water, plants and animals when a solar panel is integrated into agricultural land, which will help us understand the costs and the benefits associated with implementing solar power in Wisconsin and beyond.

Alliant Energy will design, build, own, operate and maintain the 2.25 megawatt solar and agricultural research project. At its maximum output, the project should generate enough energy to power more than 450 homes. UW-Madison will receive renewable energy credits generated by the solar project, which will provide proof that the electricity was generated from a renewable energy resource and delivered to the power grid and that the university is entitled to his attributes.

The project is part of Alliant Energy’s Customer Hosted Renewable Energy Program, which allows customers with available land to host solar installations and receive lease payments and renewable energy credits. The project also contributes to Alliant Energy’s goals of achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity it generates by 2050.

“The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been an exceptional partner and we are thrilled to work with them as we strive together towards a more sustainable future,” said Ben Lipari, director of resource development and client solutions at Alliant. Energy. “The project aligns with our mission-driven goal of playing a role in strengthening communities. This project provides UW-Madison with a facility that will enhance student exposure to renewable energy while providing a venue to consider how renewable energy will better integrate into community planning in the future.

The solar project will be built on a 15-acre site on the UW-Madison Kegonsa Research Campus, which includes the physical science lab and a research and development lab. The research campus sits on approximately 280 acres of UW-owned property west of Kegonsa Lake on Schneider Road. The Physical Science Laboratory is a research and development laboratory that provides a range of services including the design, manufacture and calibration of scientific instruments for research projects of any size and complexity. These services are provided to UW-Madison and private industry in Wisconsin, across the country and around the world.

Beyond renewable energy generation, Alliant Energy and UW-Madison are exploring future partnerships to advance the solar research project for education, demonstration and training purposes.

“This project will provide the opportunity to demonstrate how solar power and agriculture can be successfully integrated,” said Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and higher education at UW-Madison. “Additionally, the new network will allow students to do hands-on research while gaining a better understanding of how renewable energy can be integrated into a larger community framework.”

Construction could begin in the spring of 2023 with commissioning later that year. The schedule is dependent on the results of the field survey, design, permits and equipment availability.

Lana T. Arthur