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​Utility-Scale Solar Suitability Modeling

As Wisconsin has no substantial in-state fossil fuel resources, reliance on a non-renewable-based energy profile leads to an energy spending deficit of $14.4 billion[1]. This profile is rapidly shifting, however. There is increased development of  utility-scale (greater than 100 megawatts) photovoltaic production, including several projects under construction and in the queue.

Through an executive order in 2019, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers pledged that all electricity consumed in Wisconsin be 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2050. Utility companies are beginning to follow suit. Wisconsin-based provider Alliant Energy  announced plans in 2020 to eliminate coal from its generation portfolio by 2040 and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. In doing so, they have simultaneously set about increasing their solar production. They are on track to add over 1,000  megawatts of solar power by the end of 2023 with the creation of 12 solar farms across nine Wisconsin  counties. WEC Energy Group, the state’s largest utility, plans to add approximately 800 megawatts of solar.

A recent study by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) suggests that development of utility-scale photovoltaics (UPV) could supply 31.7% of energy in a proposed 100% in-state energy profile[2]. If all else remains constant, this  projection translates to the offset of 20.2% (260.9 Trillion BTU) of the current end-use consumption.

Geospatial analysis was conducted to model the capacity of Wisconsin’s landscape to meet the COWS projection.  Suitability analysis was conducted to identify areas suitable for UPV development and estimate the implied land conversion.

Read the poster.