The Dane County Board of Supervisors has voted to install solar panels at the Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center in the town of Westport.
The project, which was approved unanimously by the board at its meeting on Aug. 13, will cost the county just under $60,000. The investment will ultimately recoup its cost through reduced electric bills.
The solar panels will generate about 40,000 kwh of electricity annually, which would be enough to power four houses.
The training center, which is located between Waunakee and DeForest on Highway 19, hosts a firing range that is used both by law enforcement and by the general public.
The solar panel project was supported by county board member Tim Kiefer, whose county board district includes the training center site.
‚ÄúThe county government is committed to using renewable green energy wherever possible,‚ÄĚ Kiefer said. ‚ÄúSolar power is one component of how we will reduce carbon emissions into the air.‚ÄĚ
Earlier this year, the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change issued its Climate Change Action Plan. Among the components of the plan is to ‚Äúaccelerate solar development‚ÄĚ by ‚Äúmaximizing development of county building roof tops and appropriate county lands‚ÄĚ where solar panels can be installed.
Over the past several years, the county government has installed solar panels at a number of county-owned sites, including the Dane County Airport, the Dane County Job Center, the Medical Examiner‚Äôs Office and Indian Lake County Park. A total of 15 county buildings now have solar panels installed, according to the county‚Äôs climate change plan.
Kiefer noted that the country of Germany is a leader in solar power, despite often having cloudy and chilly weather, and being located at a more northern latitude than Wisconsin. Dane County has a sister county relationship with Kassel County in Germany, with the purpose of exchanging ideas and building economic partnerships regarding several issues, including renewable energy.
‚ÄúWith the recent decreases in the cost of solar panel technology, you don‚Äôt have to be Arizona or Nevada to make solar cost-effective,‚ÄĚ Kiefer said. ‚ÄúGermany has succeeded with solar in a climate similar to that of Wisconsin, and we can do the same here.‚ÄĚ
County board member Chuck Erickson, who chairs the Kassel Dane Sister County Task Force, said that Dane County can learn from Germany‚Äôs expertise on solar energy.
“A key component of the sister county partnership between Dane County and Kassel County, Germany has been the value of renewable energy and especially solar,‚ÄĚ Erickson said. ‚ÄúDane County has learned a lot from Kassel about new ways to create energy and we continue to exchange ideas to develop more renewable energy and to fight climate change.”
Dane County Board member Dave Ripp, whose county board district is near the Law Enforcement Training Center site, said he supports the solar project.
“It‚Äôs great to see each step we take to reduce our dependence on carbon fuels,‚ÄĚ Ripp said.
The installation of the solar panels is scheduled to be completed by early December, according to the county‚Äôs Public Works Department. The solar panels will be installed on the south-facing rooftop of the training center building.