Fitchburg O'Brien solar farm

A 20 megawatt solar farm is being proposed for the farmland on either side of Seminole Highway on the O’Brien brothers farmland. The solar farm would be powerful enough to power half of the homes in Fitchburg.

City of Fitchburg

City buying energy from solar farm

The City of Fitchburg has reached an agreement that will move it closer to its goal of 25% of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2025.

The Common Council approved a contract with Madison Gas and Electric to purchase the energy created by one of the 250 kilowatt arrays from the O’Brien solar farm project. That amounts to 1/80th of the total project’s capacity, each year for 30 years, with the potential to double that amount if there’s availability.

“We would like to have done more, but this has been a really popular project,” mayor Aaron Richardson said. “There’s a lot of businesses that are interested in using this energy, which is also a great thing – it just means we can’t take advantage as much as we would have liked to.”

The O’Brien solar farm is a 20 megawatt project, owned by MG&E and managed by EDF Renewables, that will be constructed on farmland on either side of Seminole Highway south of Lacy Road starting later this year.

The city’s agreement with MG&E will increase the percentage of its energy needs being met to around 23%, with an approximated 495,618 kilowatts being produced by the array each year. According to an energy report provided by Innovative Business Engineering using 2018 data, the city has 13.7% of its municipal energy needs being met by renewable sources.

In 2009, the city pledged to be an Energy Independent Community and to have at least 25% of its municipal energy needs being met by renewable energy sources by 2025. Last year, the Council pledged to receive 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.

Ald. Julia Arata-Fratta had concerns about the 30-year fixed rate the city would be paying. City sustainability specialist Phil Grupe said the fixed rate was what he felt were the better of two models for payment.

The other model would have started the city off with a lower rate, but increased the price by 2% every year, Grupe said.

“We felt that that was a little bit riskier to have an escalation built in when we’re not sure what rates are going to look like over the next 30 years,” he said. “It’s certainly possible that rates could decrease and the finances of this flip, but the historical pattern has not been the case.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.