A wind turbine behind solar panelThe Great Plains Institute is engaging local governments across the Upper Midwest on long-term planning for renewable energy. As part of this effort, we developed a guide to provide communities in Wisconsin with an overview of long-term utility- and community-scale solar and wind development—systems sized one megawatt (MW) or greater.

The guide provides a summary of key topics important to developing solar and wind in Wisconsin:

  • Renewable energy siting authority
  • Taxation and local revenue
  • Solar and wind resources in Wisconsin
  • Existing solar and wind projects in Wisconsin
  • Market trends for Wisconsin’s solar and wind development

The guide also provides information and resources on energy siting, policy, taxation, and incentives for solar and wind in Wisconsin.

Download “Siting Utility-Scale Solar and Wind in Wisconsin: A Guide for Local Governments.” 

Additional information is being developed on discrete siting or ordinance topics that are evolving as the solar industry grows, such as decommissioning considerations, waste disposal (panel replacement or repowering), and integration of battery storage in large-scale projects and hybrid project development.

Solar and wind energy, resources that are abundant throughout the state of Wisconsin, are among the least expensive forms of electric generation in the country—and costs of both solar and wind energy systems are forecast to continue declining. Market activity in renewable energy development is expected to continue increasing well into the future.

Understanding the long-term market context helps communities make informed decisions in evaluating renewable energy proposals and creating plans about how future development should happen. Wind and solar resources are abundant throughout Wisconsin, and wind and solar energy developments are being proposed across the state. Figures 1 and 2 show the wind and solar resources of the state.

Figure 1. Wind resource in Wisconsin

Wind siting Minnesota

Source: Data from National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) national wind speed data, 2006-2013. NREL incorporates surface wind data, upper-air data, topography, and other factors to estimate the wind resource potential over an area of many square miles. The data is most accurate for large spatial scales.

Figure 1 shows the wind potential (in miles per hour) across Wisconsin for both 80 meters and 100 meters above the ground. Purple areas represent the best wind resource and green areas represent marginal or poor resources. The elevation shows the resource at the wind turbine tower height. Most new wind farms will have turbines at 100-meter hub height or greater. The data are most accurate at large spatial scales.

Figure 2. Solar insolation in Wisconsin

Source: Data from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, 2019) Multi-Year PSM Direct Normal Irradiance data available through National Solar Radiation Dataset (NSRDB).

Figure 2 shows the solar potential across Wisconsin. Dark red areas represent the highest solar resource and light yellow areas represent the lowest solar resource. The map shows the annual average daily total solar resource measured in kWh per square mile per year.

Additional resources

We are developing additional state guides and will provide links here as they’re published:

We also created a three-part series about increasing long-term market understanding in communities that can help them be prepared for utility-scale wind and solar project siting in the Midwest:

  • Part one focused on market forces and increasing the need for local communities to incorporate and plan for large-scale renewable deployment.
  • Part two helped describe the adjacent conditions and constraints that can help inform community decisions around utility-scale siting and begin conversations to prepare for long-term pressures and opportunities.
  • Part three addressed what local communities can do to increase readiness for project development.

If you are interested in hosting a utility-scale wind or solar workshop or would like more information on resources available (and relevant) to your specific community, please reach out to:

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