Solar energy firm pitches lease at old landfill site

      Whitewater’s old landfill site at the north end of Jefferson Street could soon sprout up a new development that points to incoming changes about the energy market within the state.

      ClearPath Energy, a small firm that to date has focused its business in the northeast corridor of the U.S., has approached Whitewater officials with the prospect of using the top of the closed landfill site for a solar energy farm.

      Jeffrey Brown, a representative with ClearPath Energy, went before the Common Council on March 21 and laid out the company’s vision for the site.

      “The game plan here would be to generate about 5 megawatts worth of power,” Brown said. “The plan would be to sell that power through distribution lines of your Wisconsin grid.”

      The company’s proposal, which would encompass about 25 acres of the landfill site, is still in its very early stages, and the council did not take any action at its most recent meeting.

      City Manager John Weidl proposed starting discussions with ClearPath Energy representatives about its proposal – a plan the council backed.

      “We don’t have anything specific,” Weidl said when asked if he had a specific recommendation to the council about the company’s plan. “We’ve got to put some terms together.”

      At first blush, Brown said ClearPath Energy is looking to sink between $7 million and $9 million worth of investment into the landfill site with the solar energy farm.

      Because of the sensitive nature of landfill sites, Brown reiterated that the company would in no way disturb any areas that have been capped off from the old use. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources monitors activity at landfills.

      Bipartisan legislation in Madison is helping pave the way for companies such as ClearPath, Brown said, which has prompted the company to explore opportunities in Wisconsin.

      To date, the company has established solar energy farms in Massachusetts and New York – states that have robust policies encouraging green energy investment.

      “You would be the first city in Wisconsin that would be contracted to generate clean power from its own landfill, which is a very good story,” Brown said.

      The company’s preliminary proposal calls for a 25-year lease, with five-year extension options after the initial term. Once the lease agreement terminates, ClearPath would assume responsibility for removing all of its equipment from the old landfill site.

      If ClearPath’s plans move forward, Brown said the company would work to bring in area workers and engage in conversations with unions.

      Onboarding and trading local talent and expertise, Brown said, would be a win-win for the city and the company because it would provide job opportunities and save the expense of bringing workers from outside the area.

      “We are very interested in sourcing local,” Brown said.

      Out of the gate, the Common Council was supportive of ClearPath’s plans in Whitewater.

      “I love the idea,” council member Brienne Brown said. “I think it’s almost too good to be true.”

Comments are closed.