Dane County Airport Solar Project Generates More Than 12 Million Kilowatt-Hours of Clean Energy in First 9 Months

September 15, 2021
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
County Executive

Solar Project Moves County and MGE Closer to Climate Action Goals

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Keebler highlighted their 9-megawatt (MW) solar project at the Dane County Regional Airport. The array has generated more than 12 million kilowatt hours of electricity since it began operating in December 2020. In less than nine months, the array has already produced enough carbon-free electricity to power more than 1,200 typical Wisconsin homes for a year.

Coupled with other projects, this solar array will enable Dane County to achieve 100% renewable electricity at county-owned facilities by 2024. It provides about 40% of the electricity required to power Dane County facilities ranging from the airport to county parks and the zoo. The array represents a successful clean energy partnership between MGE and Dane County. In addition to the airport project and the county’s other solar installations, Dane County also receives significant renewable energy from the rest of the electricity it gets as an MGE customer.

“The partnership with MGE on the airport solar project is a great example of win-win clean energy solutions. Not only is the project reducing county operating costs, but it also created local job opportunities during the pandemic,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Clean energy efforts like this one benefit our environment, the local economy, and Dane County taxpayers. We appreciate MGE’s partnership on this project and their shared commitment to pursuing sustainable energy alternatives.”

“This project serves as a great example of how, by working together, we can advance shared sustainability goals, including MGE's goal of net-zero carbon electricity for all our customers by 2050," said Keebler. “Travelers and drivers along Highway 51 will see this large array and know our community is committed to growing clean energy.”

In spring 2021, MGE added pollinator plantings in certain areas around the solar panels to boost pollinator habitat for dwindling monarch and honey-bee populations. Pollinators play a critical part in our environment but can face adversity from challenges like pesticides and climate change.

Airport installation is a partnership

The solar array consists of about 31,000 solar panels and covers 58 acres of county-owned land north of the airport. Dane County leases the land to MGE and MGE sells the electricity generated to Dane County under MGE’s Renewable Energy Rider (RER) program, which includes more than 30 MWs of solar energy from MGE in the greater Madison area. The county’s purchase of renewable electricity from this solar project reduces greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equivalent to the emissions produced by the burning of 7,000 tons of coal per year.

The 30-year RER service agreement specifies that the county will purchase approximately 18 million kilowatt-hours annually, resulting in projected first-year energy savings of approximately $137,000. There were no upfront capital requirements for Dane County.

Dane County to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2024

Dane County currently gets about 45% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The County is committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity status for county facilities by 2024.

In addition to purchasing 9 MWs from the airport solar project, Dane County generates more than 600 kilowatts (kW) of power at 16 county-owned facilities. This solar project is the third solar installation at the Dane County Regional Airport.

In November 2020 County Executive Joe Parisi announced plans to develop about 140 acres of county-owned land in the Town of Cottage Grove into a large-scale solar field. That project is expected to enable Dane County to meet 100% of its electric load with renewable electricity.

MGE targeting net-zero carbon by 2050

In May 2019, MGE announced its goal of net-zero carbon electricity by 2050, making it one of the first utilities in the nation to commit to net-zero carbon by mid-century. MGE's net-zero carbon goal is consistent with climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October 2018 Special Report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. MGE expects to achieve carbon reductions of at least 65% by 2030.

To achieve deep decarbonization, MGE is growing its use of renewable energy, engaging customers around energy efficiency and working to electrify transportation, all of which are key strategies identified by the IPCC. If MGE can go further faster in reducing carbon emissions, it will. Visit mge2050.com to learn more.

Back to Press Releases