Iowa county farmland could become populated with 1.1 million solar panels

Iowa county farmland could become populated with 1.1 million solar panels

An area long known for agriculture could become a major part in the solar energy industry. Pieces of farmland in Iowa County are being sought to create one of the largest solar panel farms in the country.

“The southwest part of the county is arguably the highest-producing farmland in the area,” said Scott Godfrey, who is in charge of planning and development in Iowa County.

Instead of producing typical cash crops like corn, 3,500 acres of land in Mifflin, Eden and Linden townships could support 1.1 million solar panels. The panels would produce the equivalent of 77,000 houses worth of energy.

“We call it the Badger Hallow Solar Farm,” Dane Litchfield, director of development at Invenergy said. “It’s a lot of power, it is clean power and it a huge boost to the agricultural economy here.”

Litchfield said 25 landowners have agreed to lease all or part of their property to Invenergy, the company behind the proposal for 25 years. That would translate into $49 million in landowner payments over the 25-year contract, according to Invenergy.

“We offer a solar lease payment, which is more lucrative and less risky than farming,” Litchfield said.

Invenergy has acquired enough land to make the project happen, but there’s still a ways to go before it can take root.

“I think we are going to see a lot more questions than controversy on it,” Godfrey said.

Invenergy will need to get a conditional use permit with Iowa County and apply to the state’s Public Service Commission.

“Ultimately, after taking testimony, a three member board with the Public Service Commission will make a decision if they feel it is needed and in the best interest of the public as a whole,” Godfrey explained.

If all is approved construction on the Badger Hollow Solar Farm would begin in 2019. The solar farm would be up and running by 2021.