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Wood County Solar Project Hosts Nekoosa Middle School Students

Source: Melissa Kaye

Wood County Solar Project Hosts Nekoosa Middle School Students

Students gathered at the Wood County Solar Project to see the installed Kestrel nesting boxes. Mr. Ben Peter’s Tech Ed class built them.

April 19, 2024 4:40 PM CDT

By: Melissa Kaye

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis (WFHR, WIRI) – The sun wasn’t visible on Thursday at the Wood County Solar Project site, but students braved the elements for an educational field trip. Nekoosa Middle School students traveled by bus to the Wood County Solar Project site in Saratoga. They made the trip to see the installed nesting boxes for American Kestrels the students had helped build. Mr. Ben Peter’s Tech Ed class helped construct six of these nesting boxes to install on the site.

Kestrels are good mousers

The Wood County Solar Project generates carbon-free electricity and it also has environmental benefits. This project is built on land owned by Alliant Energy. They planted grass and seed mixes around the solar panels that will help build soil nutrients and create a pollinator-friendly habitat. This also attracts small rodents that can wreak havoc on the equipment and impact the 30 year life span of the panels. Deb Frosch, senior environmental specialist at Alliant Energy, talked with a DNR specialist about trying to attract American Kestrels to the site. They decided it was a good idea and could help to combat the rodent population. Deb came across the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program during her research.

Deb Frosch – Kestrels are good mousers

Kestrel named ‘Goose

Amber Eschenbauch co-leads the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program with her mother-in-law, Janet Eschenbauch. Amber attended the event on April 18th with their education kestrel named Goose. The small falcon sat on Amber’s falconry glove while she spoke with the students about the bird and their habitat needs. She shared that kestrels don’t build their own nests, instead usually laying their eggs in an open cavity in dead trees. Because humans often remove dead tree snags, kestrels have lost much of their natural nesting locations. Man-made kestrel nesting boxes are helping to prevent this species from becoming endangered.

Kestrel named Goose

Wood County Solar Project Site

The project site is a 150-megawatt solar project. It’s located in the Town of Saratoga and covers 1,200 acres. It not only powers around 40,000 homes, it’s also a significant source of new local tax revenue. The annual shared revenue goes back into the Town of Saratoga and Wood County. It’s estimated the panels and equipment have a 30 year lifespan. During that time, soil recovery will protect agricultural land and preserve its value for future generations. Once the grass that has been planted matures, the water quality of surrounding water bodies is expected to improve because of reduced nitrogen, phosphorus, and other chemicals. Tony Palese is the Senior Communications Specialist with Alliant Energy. He and Deb spoke with me about all the environmental considerations that went into planning the site.

Tony and Deb – It’s the little things

Tony Palese shared with the students how the design of the site will make it easy to upgrade or decommission it at the end of the 30 year life span. At that time, Alliant will be able to install new upgraded panels or return it back to agricultural land or prairie.

Tony – Easy to decommission
Deb Frosch, Mr. Ben Peters, Tony Palese and other members from Alliant Energy

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