MGE Breaks Ground on Solar Array

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Kevin Murphy
L-R: MGE CEO Jeff Keebler, Middleton Mayor Gurdip Brar, Middleton-Cross Plains School District Superintendent Dr. Dana Monogue and Don Peterson, MGE vice president of energy technology.

MIDDLETON – It was sunshine and smiles Tuesday when city, school and utility officials broke ground for a five-megawatt solar array at Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field.

Mayor Gurdip Brar proclaimed Oct. 29, “Solar Power Day” in Middleton to commemorate the second solar project the city and Middleton Gas and Electric (MGE) have partnered on since a 500 kilowatt array was installed in 2017 on the Municipal Operations Center’s roof.

The city will buy .5 megawatts produced by the 17,000 solar panels bringing it closer to its goal of using 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources. The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District will purchase a one megawatt which will be used at eight schools, said Perry Hibner, a school district spokesman. The remainder of the array’s output is available to residential customers on a subscription basis for up to one-half of their annual electricity usage through MGE’s Shared Solar program.

The entire output would otherwise power about 1,500 homes, according to Steve Schultz, an MGE spokesman. 

The power will cost the city and the school district .06 cents per kilowatt with a two percent annual escalator saving the city $353,000 during the next 30 years. The school district projects saving $1.059 million during the same time period.

The school district has been a pioneer in MGE’s energy efficiency efforts generating savings of nearly $4 million since 2004 through controlling energy consumption, said School Superintendent Dr. Dana Monogue.

The district leads the state by placing four schools Middleton High School, Park Elementary, West Middleton Elementary, Kromery Middleton School, and the district as a whole, in the Department of Energy’s Green Ribbon program which promotes sustainability practices.

Pope Farm Elementary now under construction, will become the second district school, after Kromery, to use geo-thermal energy. The geo-thermal system has a 11-year payback period and will cut carbon dioxide levels by 13 percent, natural gas usage by 25 percent and a 55 percent reduction in electricity usage compared to conventional heating/cooling systems, said Monogue.

Teaching students in an environmentally sustainable facilities should make them “change agents” for responsible energy usage in the future, she said.

Last year, MGE announced a goal of becoming net zero carbon electricity by 2050 in providing power to its 161,000-plus customers. The installation at Morey Field will help the utility reach that goal, said Don Peterson, an MGE vice president of energy technology. 

“Our goal aligns with climate science but doesn’t determine our pace. We’re working to achieve net zero as quickly as we can,” he said.

MGE is leasing 22 acres on the airport’s north side, accessible from Schneider Road, at $400 an acre for the next 30 years. The lease revenue will be used for the airport’s upkeep and the city is already receiving payments from MGE under a two-year option it had previously reached.

The array is expected to take about three months to build.

The city plans to begin construction of solar array next spring on roofs of the Senior Center, Recycling Center and EMS building.

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