It feels good to hit a goal, especially an ambitious goal.
On June 22 Dane County Executive Joe Parisi stood with partners from Alliant Energy and SunVest to announce Yahara Solar, a 17 MW solar project that will enable Dane County to achieve a big goal, the goal of getting all of the electricity used in Dane County’s facilities from renewable sources.
The mood at the groundbreaking was jubilant. After all, we were there to announce that we would achieve our goal of powering all Dane County operations with renewable electricity ahead of schedule. And if everything goes according to plan, the Yahara Solar project will be finished this year, enabling us to hit our 2025 goal years ahead of schedule.
We were also jubilant because this is a substantial achievement. There is a long list of local governments that have pledged to power their operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2030 or 2040 but the number of entities achieving this milestone in 2022 is small. Dane County will be the first county in Wisconsin to have 100% renewable electricity.
County Executive Parisi’s remarks included information on the other ecosystem benefits we expect from this project. In addition to generating enough clean electricity for more than 3,000 Dane County homes annually, the project will deliver other environmental benefits. Transforming the 90 acres of land from corn and soybeans to solar will, for example, reduce phosphorous runoff to area waterways by 370 pounds annually, which is huge when you remember that each pound of phosphorous runoff supports 500 pounds of algae in our lakes. (I did the math; that means the project reduces algae by 185,000 pounds annually.) The project will also increase carbon sequestration in the plants and soil beneath the panels and provide natural habitat for pollinators. So, yes, we have plenty of reason to celebrate.
Listening to the County Executive, though, I was not most struck by the good news—I was most struck by his perseverance.
“This is no time to rest on our laurels,” Executive Parisi noted, going on to highlight the County’s latest climate goal is that our fleet and facilities be carbon neutral by 2030. He also reiterated our commitment to sharing what we have learned with other counties so that they can reduce their emissions too.
This is perhaps what is best about climate action work in Dane County: we get substantial things done and, even while celebrating our accomplishments, we express a commitment to doing more.
The Yahara Solar project is an important milestone for Dane County; definitely I appreciate all the Dane County staff who made the project a reality. And, now that it is underway, I will circle back to all the other ways we can reduce emissions and increase local resiliency. Because we are not ones to rest on our laurels.
Kathy is the Director of the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
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