Pierce County is one step closer to having the region’s largest solar project. Pending state approval, the facility will join the power grid in 2022.

Xcel Energy announced Monday that its clean energy transition took a significant step forward now that Western Mustang Solar has agreed to construct the 74-megawatt solar array on privately owned land in Gilman Township. When completed, the project will be owned and operated by Xcel Energy and be the largest solar facility in western Wisconsin.

“We are pleased to invest in this locally sourced solar facility to provide even more renewable energy to our customers,” said Mark Stoering, president, Xcel Energy, Wisconsin and Michigan. “From our fully subscribed Wisconsin community solar garden program to our leadership in wind energy, this project is another example of our ongoing commitment to clean, reliable and affordable energy.”

Xcel Energy was the first major utility in the nation to announce a goal to deliver carbon-free electricity to all customers by 2050. The utility currently has more than 760 megawatts of large-scale, universal solar capacity on its system.

Discussion on the local project began with the Gilman Town Board back in late 2019. Because the township has no zoning ordinance, jurisdiction fell to the Pierce County Board. The township could and did provide suggestions, however, including:

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  • Use of roads and road repair obligations

  • Construction hours, plan and staging area

  • Assurances, bonds and decommissioning protections

  • Setbacks, vegetation areas and fencing and other environmental concerns

The Town Board advanced those to the county in March following a packed public hearing at which area residents learned the facility will feature rows of solar panels in rows 16 to 20 feet apart. The panels will shift to face the sun throughout the day so the facility can convert as much sunlight into solar energy as possible.

READ MORE: Gilman solar panel project forwarded to Pierce County

Pierce County approved the necessary local permits in August.

The facility is expected to generate power for 30 to 40 years, with a possible extension contingent on the marketplace, community, landowners and Western Mustang Solar itself, Xcel said in a news release.

Representatives of Ranger Power, the utility-scale solar development company developing the project on behalf of Western Mustang Solar, told town officials this spring that the project will provide energy for more than 10,000 homes and provide a new source of funds for both the township and Pierce County under the state’s shared revenue program. An annual payment of $296,000 will be split -- one third to Gilman and two thirds to Pierce County for hosting the facility. The project’s permit application includes a decommissioning plan to return the land to agricultural use.

"Ranger Power is proud to have worked closely with the local community on this project, which will assist in generating not only clean power, but economic growth for the area." Ranger Power CEO Adam Cohen said Monday.

Xcel Energy said it will file its request to purchase the project with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin within the week. If PSCW approves, construction will begin in late 2021 and the project would begin generating renewable energy in 2022.