April 29--An array of solar panels will sit atop property that once was a landfill on Eau Claire's southwest side after Xcel Energy officials announced Thursday the company is moving forward with development of what would be the state's largest community solar garden program.
As part of Solar Connect Community, Xcel will buy the electricity produced by two 1-megawatt solar gardens. One will be built in Sky Park Industrial Park in Eau Claire, and the other in La Crosse County.
The solar gardens will be constructed by Pristine Sun, a San Francisco-based developer of solar projects. Xcel officials said they hope the Eau Claire solar garden can be operational by the end of this year.
The city of Eau Claire signed a lease with Pristine Sun this week to build the Eau Claire solar array on 7 1/2 acres of an abandoned landfill near the company's Wisconsin headquarters on West Hamilton Avenue in the industrial park.
The Sky Park landfill operated as a municipal waste facility from 1948 to 1965.
The lease agreement with Pristine Sun was contingent upon Xcel being able to find enough customers to make the project happen.
City Manager Dale Peters praised the solar farm as an example of public and private sectors working together effectively to, in this case, provide clean energy.
"Solar is an excellent reuse strategy for this idle landfill," Peters said.
Xcel officials said the company has received considerable customer interest in the solar project since it began offering solar subscriptions in late February. They expect all solar units to be spoken for by the end of this year.
"We are pleased to offer an option for customers who want to support locally sourced solar and to collaborate with the city of Eau Claire on a prime location for one of our first community solar gardens," Mark Stoering, president of Northern States Power Co.-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company, said in a news release.
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