April 4, 2019, Maranatha Baptist University hosted the last business breakfast of the academic year. There were more than 100 people in attendance. We were excited that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, Daniel Kelly, was one of those attending the event.
Dan Litchfield, Director of Project Development for Invenergy, spoke to a major topic of our time, renewable energy. Litchfield is a solar farmer and boasts 12 years of experience with wind energy and 3 years with solar energy. Invenergy is currently preparing to begin construction of the Sinnissippi Solar Farm project in Jefferson County, WI. The word Sinissippi is the Indian name for the Rock River which flows through Wisconsin and Illinois, ending at the Mississippi River, thus having a significant impact on Watertown.
Litchfield’s presentation focused on the advantages—to the power grid, businesses, and consumers—of installing a solar farm. These advantages include the increased cost productivity, added economic value, and advanced technology of solar energy production.
Litchfield explained that the cost of buying solar panels is declining. This allows Invenergy to buy more panels at a lower cost. More panels produce more energy, which saves more money. The panels are able to produce energy from the sun more efficiently than burning coal. Litchfield added that Wisconsin currently spends $14 billion annually for fuel to produce electricity. If Wisconsin were to switch to solar energy, the utility companies would be able to reduce its reliance on non-renewable fuels; providing long-term savings
Litchfield went on to discuss the value of solar panels in relation to other sources of energy. In theory, 2,100 acres of solar panels would be enough energy to power 75,000 homes. There would be no emissions or water use, and operations would be quiet and emit no odors. Below the Solar panels, the developers will establish what is known as ground cover—native plants to the area that improve soil quality and reduce storm-water runoff, while creating a habitat for pollinators. Thus, energy is clean and nature-friendly.
The third and final aspect that Litchfield discussed is the technology involved in the solar panels. Most solar panels are currently on a single-axis tracking system. He explained that this design is the most economical way to harvest solar energy, with all panels facing south and not tilting. However, there are panels with double-axis, allowing them to tilt to track the sun. The double-axis, while not common, will be implemented into the new solar farm project in Jefferson, WI.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Mr. Litchfield fielded questions from the attendees, which included several of MBU’s business students and Watertown community members. A few questions posed by the attendees were:
- Why is there negativity surrounding solar energy?
- What states are you in, and what states are you looking to get into?
- Who manufactures the solar panels?
- Are there any fees or liabilities to the farmer’s leased land?
Litchfield explained that while there are concerns with this solar farm project, the worry is, in the opinion of Invenergy, unfounded. The idea of looking out into a field and seeing solar panels instead of cornfields scares the public because of the new technology that is unfamiliar to many. These new installations can be seen in Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, and Nevada, with ongoing construction in Georgia and Florida. These projects have been highly successful according to Litchfield, and are very well received. The panels come from LONGi, a company based in Malaysia, which Invenergy has established a strong supplier relationship with. As for any fees, Invenergy takes care of the insurance, liabilities, and any other costs that may come up.
The Sinnissippi Solar Farm is aimed at creating renewable, reusable, and clean energy; while at the same time, being consumer friendly in terms of costs, land, and environment.
If there are any questions or inquiries, Sinnissippi Solar has a website that can be accessed here.