|To whom it may concern,
Along with my parents, I own property adjacent to the proposed Alliant Energy solar farm project in the Town of Dakota, Waushara County, Wisconsin. The farm I am partial owner of and manage and operate is located at W9209 State Rd. 21 and will be significantly and detrimentally impacted by this project if approved, as it would border my property fully on two sides and partially on a third. I have many concerns, doubts, and objections to the proposed project which I will expand upon further in these comments.
The first concern and doubt I have is about the efficiency and reliability of this solar project as a viable source of energy for the area. Besides being a local farmer in Wisconsin, I am also a full-time professional firefighter for the City of San Antonio, Texas. I have firsthand knowledge and experience in the inefficiencies and the dangers of relying so heavily on so called "green or alternative energies". In February of 2021, the State of Texas experienced a significant winter weather event. While the inclement weather only lasted a few days, the effects of the storms on the state`s power grid lasted for several weeks and even cost lives. While this weather is unusual for Texas, it is commonplace in Wisconsin during the winter. Even with optimal sunlight now in June, the Texas power grid is struggling to keep up with demand with several conventional powerplants being offline this month, which is causing rolling blackouts across the state. My point is, if this can happen in a state where the sunlight is optimal and conducive for producing solar power most of the year, how efficient will this project really be in a state where eight months out of the year the sunlight is less than optimal for producing power? Will production projections be any more accurate or will the technology used in this project be any more advanced than that used in Texas? I believe there are much better means to produce power in this region, solar not being one of them.
Another concern I have is the repurposing of agricultural land for this project that is currently being used to produce crops. Agricultural land is a finite resource and should be protected. There is no more being developed and cannot be truly reclaimed once taken out of agricultural production for a project such as this. Though Alliant Energy claims the land "could be" returned to agricultural use after the 30-year life of this project, the fact is that the footings would remain under the surface of the soil and would prohibit conservation practices such as tiling and may after time and erosion prohibit even basic practices such as tillage.
With an ever-growing population that needs to be fed, agricultural land is disappearing at an alarming rate for housing and other developments. Alliant`s statics may show the that 620 acres that would be used for this project constitutes only a small percentage of agricultural land in Waushara County, but how many small percentages can we afford to take out of production? All the small percentages for this, and other projects will undoubtedly over time add up to become a substantial percentage of agricultural land being taken out of production. There is other land not suitable for agriculture, fallow fields and county or municipal properties in the area that could be utilized for this project instead of land that is in active agricultural production.
Alliant Energy claims that this project would help farmers and create jobs this is very misleading and not true. Much of the acreage for this proposed site is owned by individuals that do not farm their land, some of whom do not even live in the county or anywhere near this site. They lease their land to farmers and if completed would in fact be detrimental to farmers by making land unavailable to be farmed. This project may create some jobs during the construction of this site and according to Alliant, only two full time once operational. How many agricultural jobs will be lost or otherwise impacted because of this project?
The negative impact it would have on the environment is a major objection I have to this project. While Alliant Energies claims the project will create a pollinator-friendly habitat, I believe this is meant to distract attention from the avian and mammal species it would be detrimentally impacted. It would prohibit access to deer and other land species to the project acreage and severely impede access for them to my property which deny a major source food and cover for these animals. As stated earlier, this proposed project would border my property fully on two sides and partially on a third, almost completely cutting off access to my property. Furthermore, most of the remaining access to my property would be from the north, which is a major and busy roadway, State Highway 21. This could potentially create an even more dangerous situation for motorist with wildlife crossing the roadway. It would also seriously disrupt their movement to and from the hundreds of acres of public land that would be seriously impacted by this project.
There are also several wetland areas on mine and adjacent acreage that would be affected by this project as proposed. Waushara County and the State of Wisconsin in general is a major thoroughfare for migratory birds including ducks and geese, and the Federal Migratory Bird Act provides protection for Sandhill Cranes and their habitat in this state. It has been shown that ducks and other waterfowl have attempted to land in these sites confusing them with water bodies and it has also been documented that many birds have been killed because of these solar farms. The effects of the increased thermal effects and electromagnetic energy produced on the birds flying over these facilities are still not fully known.
These technologies have been labeled as "green", "clean" and "environmentally friendly", however they are anything but. On my commute between Texas and my farms I see fields piled with mountains of windmill blades that can neither be recycled nor disposed of in an acceptable manner. Solar panels are constructed of various toxic materials, making them difficult to recycle and otherwise dispose of. Currently Alliant has no written plan for remediation of this site once discontinued. This type of short sightedness creates a very long-term problem for any short-term benefit.
I would also like to address efficiency as it relates to the environment. It has been projected that this site would produce 99 Megawatts on an area of 620 acres. In contrast, the West Riverside Energy Center produces 730 Megawatts for the area it occupies. It seems to me that this project would have a huge footprint on the environment for the minimal energy that would be produced.
The toxicity of the panel materials and other dangers inherent to these facilities is also of major concern. As stated earlier, I am a professional firefighter and aware dangers unique to these solar farms and have received training in the extreme challenges that emergencies involving such facilities can pose. I am overwhelmingly concerned about well being residents that would be exposed to these toxins that would be produced in the event of a fire or other emergency, especially my parents, whose home is less than one hundred feet from these proposed panels. Even without an emergency, there is no clear and conclusive evidence that there are no detrimental health effects due to long term exposure of individuals that reside in close proximity to such installations. Too much is still unknow about how any increase in thermal dynamics, electromagnetic fields, noise even at low decibels or other things associated with this type of power generation would affect humans, pets, or livestock. The solar farms I am acquainted with in San Antonio are not near residences and I believe this is for good reason.
In conclusion I would like to say that I realize there is an ever-increasing need for power production, and we will need to explore and utilize many different technologies to meet these demands. All methods of producing electricity have their own merits and their own drawbacks as well as risks. We should implement the right means for the situation and area and weigh the risks vs reward on a case-by-case basis. While my comments are in no way exhaustive of the real and legitimate concerns associated with this project, I believe that I have brought forth sufficient and compelling points to not continue this project in this location as proposed. I feel there are much better choices for energy production that could be utilized in this region. Thank you for your careful consideration of my cares and concerns.
John J. Wedell