Sauk County Health Care panel selects site for solar array | Regional news

The Sauk County Health Care Center Board of Trustees chose a site Thursday on which to place an array of solar panels at the facility, while several board members maintained their opposition to the project.

During a presentation to the panel, Health Care Center Administrator Jennifer Vosen told board members they must decide on one of four sites selected for panel installation on the 55-acre Health Care Center property before the county can solicit bids.

The project, which is headed by Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, calls for installing solar panels at the county Law Enforcement Center in Baraboo and the Health Care Center in Reedsburg. It’s designed to save the county money, while using sustainable energy.

The board opted to site a solar array near the southwest corner of the Health Care Center, choosing that option over putting two rows of panels near the property’s parking lot, installing a long row of panels along the south property line or placing a series of panels on the property’s southeast corner.

“While you may not support it and agree with it, if it is to go through, you at least have a say in where it’s going to be out here,” Vosen told board members.

Board member Dennis Polivka said he favored the option to place panels on the southwest corner of the property, but added that he was opposed to the project as a whole. Polivka said he disapproves of the solar initiative from a business perspective.

“If we have to come up with a site, this is the only one because we don’t want to use buildable land,” he said. “None of the choices appeal to me, but of the four, that’s the only one that I would consider.”

Hoffman Planning officials estimate the county could save $1 million over 25 years by partnering with a private firm to generate about 20 percent of the county buildings’ energy from solar power. Specific numbers will not become available until the county receives bids from potential investors.

After bid solicitation is reviewed by county staff, it’ll be sent to 13 firms on Monday. Bids will be due Nov. 3. Under the consultants’ timeline, contractor selection would take place Nov. 16. They hope installation is complete by June 15.

Under a third-party deal, the county would immediately benefit from cheaper energy prices. The investor that purchases and installs the solar equipment would benefit from the county’s payments and financial incentives only available to private entities.

A deal would also include an option for the county to purchase the arrays at a reduced price in the future. Once it owns the systems, the county would pay nothing for the energy produced, which is expected to increase the annual savings.

Sauk County Board Chairman Marty Krueger, who is not on the Health Care Center Board of Trustees, suggested the panel put forth a motion to approve its preferred placement of panels on property while maintaining its opposition.

“I think it should include a statement that says that this board does not support it,” board member Mary Ellen Murray added.

Krueger said the board’s decision places responsibility for the solar project with the County Board.

“I’ll run the experiment because we have no money in it,” he said. “I think your motion stresses it’s the (county) board making this decision to put it out here, not the board of trustees.”

Zoning approval from Reedsburg will be required to move forward with the project. Hoffman Planning will make a presentation Tuesday to the full County Board.

The solar project has been under consideration for 2½ years, but recently has been slowed by disagreements among members of the board. Despite reservations, the board approved soliciting bids in July.

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

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