Richland County Board adjusts permit fees for incoming solar farm off Highway 130

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

The Richland County Board made some adjustments to their solar energy permit fees in preparation for a potential solar farm being built in the southeast portion of the county.

At its regular May 18 meeting, the board amended it’s ordinance pertaining to permit fees for residential use and solar farm use, as Savion Energy prepares to build a large solar farm on either side of Highway 130 near the Village of Lone Rock.

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The amendments adjust the fees for permits from a per solar panel price to a flat rate price for the permit. To obtain a permit for a small residential shed or garage, the flat rate will now be $100, and the flat rate for a use permit for a solar farm will be $750, a large price drop for solar companies.

Bindl said if the ordinance had not been amended to create a flat rate price, Savion Energy would be charged nearly $6 million in just permit fees to bring the solar farm to life in Richland County.

“There is a question as to whether they would come or not if we charge $6 million,” said Supervisor Ingrid Glassbrenner, of Richland Center.

The solar farm is expected to be approximately 800 acres, starting north of Highway 14, spanning both sides of Highway 130 all the way to Old Mill Road, where there is an existing electric substation, which Bindl said is a big draw for that specific location.

Of those 800 acres, Savion says a minimum of 400 acres will be dedicated to permanent solar energy systems.

According to Savion’s application for a conditional use permit, which was approved by the county board April 2019, once the farm is up and running it is expected to generate 50 megawatts of renewable energy. That energy will be routed to the existing Lone Rock substation.

Construction is expected to begin this summer, and be completed in 2022.

Other actions the board took include:

•Honoring the retirement of two Child Support Agency employees.
•Honoring the retirement of former County Clerk, Victor Vlasak, who’s final day in the county was April 30.
•Honored the retirement of the county’s first corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, whos final day in the county was March 16.
•Based a resolution recommending the wearing of masks in all county owned buildings.
•Approved the replacement of gymnasium flooring in the UW Campus building, which will be paid from the UW Richland Center fund. Per the board’s rules, the board must approve any purchase over $5,000 for the UW campus.