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Dane County's Sustainability Success Story


photograph of solar panels at dane county airport

In the realm of environmental action, local government operations often find themselves at the crossroads of potential and pragmatism. Enter Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin, which stands as a beacon of progressive policies, having embraced the shift towards renewable energy with a forward-thinking solar farm initiative. Their journey is one of meticulous planning, technological innovation, and the hard data that showcases practical results. As a result of their focus on sustainability, Dane County will become the first county government in the state to achieve 100% renewable electricity status


In this comprehensive case study, we'll dissect the various facets of Dane County Airport's solar venture to uncover crucial insights for other local governments or institutions looking to embrace sustainable energy practices. By examining how Dane County's multiple solar farms came to fruition, the challenges it encountered, and the strides it has made, we can paint a picture of how a localized approach to sustainability can yield far-reaching benefits.




Dane County Solar Farms: An Overview

Airports, which are renowned for their typically negative environmental impacts, are under mounting pressure to 'green' their environmental footprint. As Dane County executives began to prioritize sustainability with a goal to make all county facilities 100% renewable by 2025, it became clear that the local airport—a hub of both travel and commerce—would need to be a leader, not a follower, in the eco-friendliness race.


Planning for Power

The idea for Dane County Airport's solar farm germinated from a confluence of factors: the need to reduce operational costs, a commitment to fight climate change, and an underutilized expanse of land. The decision to harness solar power was the beginning of a pioneering journey that required exhaustive planning and consultation with experts in energy and civil engineering.


The Solar Solution: Partnership

Designing a solar farm for a live airport is no trivial task. It demanded a delicate balance between optimal energy production and the uninterrupted operation of nearby aviation infrastructure. The technology deployed within the farm exemplifies the state-of-the-art in photovoltaic systems, complete with advances in inverters, tracking systems, and energy storage. By partnering with SunVest Solar, Pieper Power, Madison Gas Electric (MGE), and Alliant Energy, Dane County was able to develop solar farms on airport property that efficiently produce energy without compromising airport operations and safety.



Lessons from Dane County: Benefits of Using Airport Property for Solar Energy

Overall, there are many benefits of airport solar farms. The success of Dane County Airport's solar farm is a testament to the power of vision, partnership, and perseverance in the pursuit of environmental stewardship. By distilling the lessons learned from this remarkable case study, other local entities can glean insights that will not only strengthen their resolve to adopt green initiatives, but also empower them to sidestep common pitfalls.


Advances Shared Energy Goals

MGE is aiming to provide net-zero carbon electricity for all customers by 2050, while Dane County was committed to becoming 100% renewable at all County-owned facilities. By partnering with MGE, Dane County successfully demonstrated how a partnership with the local utility advances shared energy goals.


Revenue Generation

By hosting the solar facilities on county property, Dane County will receive significant revenue from solar lease payments for the duration of the lease.


Influence in the Energy Sector

An initiative of this magnitude does not go unnoticed. The recently approved 17 MW Yahara Solar project will produce enough electricity to enable Dane County to become Wisconsin's first county to achieve 100% renewable energy status. Dane County's pioneering solar farms stand as an influential model for other municipal airports and local governments. By sharing knowledge and best practices, Dane County Regional Airport becomes a beacon that guides the way to a brighter, more sustainable energy future.



Embracing Solar Power on Airport Property

The journey of Dane County's solar farm reflects the dawning of a new era in which renewable energy practices become the norm rather than the exception. Dane County sets a terrific example in highlighting how local institutions hold considerable sway in the movement towards a more sustainable future.


Municipalities, airports, and institutions of all kinds can take a page from Dane County's playbook, weaving their own tales of clean energy transformation. Public property owners interested in utilizing their properties for renewable energy development in a similar manner can leverage LandGate's marketplace to list their land for lease for free. There is no commitment to accept any offers, and LandGate does not charge any fees or commissions.



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