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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will the project impact farmland and local agriculture?
    Solar development and traditional agriculture can co-exist side-by-side, and increasingly are found together. Responsible solar development provides benefits to both agriculture and ecosystems by improving soil health, retaining water, nurturing native species, and supporting native pollinators which support local food production. In addition, solar farms help farmers and landowners diversify their income by providing a reliable, drought-resistant revenue stream. This steady income means that farmers are less vulnerable to fluctuations in market prices on their products, uncertain trade regimes, and volatile annual weather, thus helping farmers stay in business. Additionally, at the end of its useful life the project will be decommissioned, and the land will be available for all future potential uses, including traditional agriculture.
  • Where will the power generated from the project go?
    The power from Elk Creek Solar will be delivered into the local Wisconsin electric grid, helping to diversify the state’s energy portfolio. Power generated by the project will be used both locally and transmitted to where it is needed based on demand.
  • Will inclement weather damage the panels?
    Panels are capable of withstanding harsh weather elements such as hail, torrential rain, and strong winds. Studies, as well as actual catastrophic events such as hurricanes, have shown that the solar farms are able to withstand the harsh weather elements, including the cold, snowy weather of Wisconsin.
  • Are solar panels toxic?
    No. Elk Creek Solar will utilize monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which account for over 90% of solar PV panels installed today. These panels use a crystalline lattice of silicon atoms to convert sunlight into electricity. Silicon is the second-most abundant material on Earth (after oxygen) and the most common semiconductor used in computer chips. It is nontoxic and does not pose a risk to public health or safety. When a project is decommissioned, panels can be recycled as well as be disposed in landfills designated for this type of material.
  • Do solar panels leach chemicals into the ground?
    PV solar panels are designed and built with solid, non-toxic materials confined between glass and a metal frame. When operated as intended, or in the rare instance when they fail or are damaged, they do not leach chemicals into the ground.
  • Once solar panels are removed; can the land be used again for agriculture?
    Yes. The Elk Creek Solar Project will be located on private land under long term lease arrangements and at the end of the life of the project, the project will be decommissioned, and the land will be available again for farming. This is in stark contrast to other developments, such as commercial or industrial building projects, which often leave land unusable for agriculture again. During construction, native vegetation – often friendly to bees and other pollinators – will be planted. The deep roots of native vegetation retain more water than turf grass during heavy storms and periods of drought. They also retain topsoil and improve soil health over time.
  • What happens to solar panels at the end of their life?
    As part of the permitting process, Elk Creek Solar will provide a detailed decommissioning plan and a commitment to implement the same. At the end of the project’s operating life (35 years or more), panels can be removed and recycled or disposed of in a licensed landfill. Up to 90% of the materials used in panels, much of which is glass, are recyclable.
  • What is the fire risk of a solar project such as this?
    The risk of fire in a large-scale solar project is incredibly low. The project contains sensors that are capable of detecting a fire that could be occurring in a specific section of the array. These sensors will immediately notify Operation and Maintenance team members, who then can power off the array. The solar energy facility and its equipment will be operated and monitored to ensure proper safety of the equipment. The Elk Creek Solar Project will have a safety and security plan that details fire protection and related education for local fire responders. The project will work with local fire and EMS departments to ensure their thorough understanding of the project’s low fire risk and proper response actions.
  • Will Elk Creek Solar impact wildlife?
    Impacts to local wildlife are expected to be minimal. Project environmental experts have been assessing the project footprint by conducting site-specific studies to understand and mitigate potential impacts on wildlife. The project will comply with all state and federal regulations associated with wildlife including requirements of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Small local wildlife will be able to come and go through wildlife friendly fencing, including rabbits and other small mammals as well as turtles and other small reptiles.
  • What happens when it is cloudy outside?
    Even on a cloudy day, solar panels produce between 10% and 25% of their typical output. Advanced tracking systems also enable solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day and maximize the amount of electricity generated.
  • Will stray voltage be a concern for livestock operations near the project?
    No. Large-scale solar projects must follow strict electrical safety codes governing the design, construction, and operation of any project in Wisconsin. With modern-day underground collection and transmission lines used in the construction of solar farms, stray voltage will not impact neighboring farms. On-site project staff will oversee the day-to-day operations of the solar farm to assure the site continues to follow all applicable codes and regulations. Additionally, Elk Creek Solar will comply with any stray voltage testing ordered by the PSCW.
  • What is the impact of the project to local roads?
    The project will survey local roads prior to the start of construction and once construction has been completed. Elk Creek Solar will maintain and/or improve local roads as required to support any increase in traffic or weight so that upon project completion the roads will be in the same or better condition as prior to construction.
  • Will the project emit any greenhouse gases?
    No. Solar panels generate clean, renewable electricity and do not emit any greenhouse gases or other harmful emissions. This distinguishes solar energy from carbon-based electric generation, where carbon dioxide and other air pollutants are emitted as a biproduct of the generation process.
  • Do solar panels create glare?
    Solar panels are designed to ensure minimal reflection as any reflected light is lost energy; therefore, the panels are designed with anti-reflective coating to absorb the maximum amount of light. However, solar panel glare occasionally occurs when an observer sees a direct reflection of the sun caused by a reflection from the surface of a solar panel. As part of its permitting process, Elk Creek Solar conducted a Glare Analysis of the project site to minimize or eliminate solar panel glare on the surrounding residents, businesses, and transportation. Further, the project will utilize single axis trackers, which allow the panels to track the sun as it moves across the sky and keep the panels at a right angle to the sun, minimizing the potential for glare.
  • Are property values impacted by the facility?
    Industry studies show that large-scale solar power facilities economically benefit the community and generally do not decrease residential property resale values following proper design and visual/sound mitigation. The increase in tax revenue generated by the facility typically leads to stronger school funding, levelized taxes, the potential for better roads, stabilized funding for emergency services, and more. Additionally, buyers may view the solar facility as a safe, quiet neighbor.
  • Will the project obstruct wildlife patterns within the project area?
    The project will utilize wildlife-friendly fencing which will allow small animals, such as rabbits and reptiles, to go back and forth through the fencing. The project is not being sited on one contiguous square area of fenced ground. Rather, the project will be comprised of several fenced sections of ground connected underground to one another (will be more of a patchwork quilt of sections throughout the total area). Larger animals, such as deer, will be able to traverse through and around the total project area.
  • How is water run-off and drainage impacted?
    Elk Creek Solar will file with the PSCW a plan that specifically addresses runoff both during construction and while the project is operating. In addition, the project will plant deep-rooted native vegetation beneath the solar panels and throughout the project footprint. Establishing native vegetation throughout the array will allow the ground to rest and build nutrient-rich soil. The well-rested, nutrient-filled soil will also help with erosion control and water runoff impacts in, near, and around the solar site.
  • Will the project affect the agricultural economy?
    a. Although farmers may be taking ground out of row crop agricultural use so that it may be used for the project, they are also receiving additional income from the new land use type. It is common for participating landowners to participate with a portion of their total ground and continue farming other non-participating acres of ground. It is also typical for participating landowners to continue living locally after the solar facility is constructed, spending income locally, to the benefit of the local economy throughout the life of the project. b. Elk Creek Solar will be utilizing a vegetative management plan that incorporates pollinator-friendly habitats and deep-rooted native vegetative ground cover throughout the project footprint. The additional pollinator-friendly habitat has the potential to increase nearby pollinator-impacted foliage and crops. c. The project will make a significant financial investment in the seed purchased for ground cover, which could prove to offer excellent habitats for small animals, birds, and insects.
  • Are the solar panels cleaned?
    Solar panels are typically cleaned naturally through rainfall or snow melting from the face of the panels. O&M crew members will ensure panels are properly cleaned for efficiency and energy production purposes.
  • What is typically involved in the decommissioning process of the solar plant?
    As part of Elk Creek Solar’s lease agreements with landowners, and as required by the PSCW, the Project will be responsible for the removal of all equipment from leased land at the end of the Project’s useful life. The removal of equipment and restoration of the host site is referred to as ‘decommissioning’. A Decommissioning Plan has been submitted to the PSCW. This plan details the responsibility of the Project to remove equipment and return land to a similar state as was present before the Project was constructed. As part of the Decommissioning Plan, the Project will agree to post a bond or similar financial surety to ensure the funds necessary to decommission are consistently available throughout the life of the Project; this bond provides a financial guarantee that the Project will bear the cost to decommission and that host landowners (with whom the Project has leased ground for this temporary land-use purpose) and/or host communities will not be responsible for any costs. The decommissioning bond remains in effect for the life of the Project regardless of any ownership transfer and/or in the highly unlikely circumstance of bankruptcy.
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