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New wind farm comes online in rural Wisconsin, generating enough energy to power 50K homes

Project is a joint venture between Wisconsin Public Service, Madison Gas and Electric

The Red Barn Wind Park went online in Grant County last week.
The Red Barn Wind Park went online in Grant County in April 2023. It’s a joint venture between Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric. Photo Courtesy of Wisconsin Public Service

A new wind farm in rural Wisconsin that generates enough electricity to power over 50,000 homes is now online, advancing clean energy initiatives for two utilities.

The Red Barn Wind Park came online last week in Grant County’s rural townships of Clifton and Wingville. It features 28 wind turbines — each up to 552 feet tall — over an 8,900-acre project area, and produces 92 megawatts of electricity.

“The energy is sent to the grid and then is provided to the homes, businesses and customers that we serve,” said Matt Cullen, a spokesperson for Wisconsin Public Service, or WPS. “From our standpoint, we’re pleased to be able to continue offering and delivering more clean energy to our customers by bringing Red Barn Wind Park online.”

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The wind farm is a partnership between WPS and Madison Gas and Electric, or MGE. WPS owns roughly 90 percent of the project, while MGE owns the remaining 10 percent. Both utilities say the project is another step toward reducing their carbon footprint.

MGE and WPS’ parent company, WEC Energy Group, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and it plans to stop using coal for electric generation by 2035.

WPS plans to make its electric generation fleet net carbon-neutral by 2050, while MGE hopes to achieve net-zero carbon electricity by 2050. Becoming carbon-neutral requires emissions to be captured or offset, while net-zero carbon means no carbon will be emitted.

“The Red Barn Wind Park is a project that can really play an important role (and) can really help us achieve those carbon emissions goals,” Cullen said.

Beyond Red Barn, he said WEC Energy Group is investing in nearly 3,300 megawatts of solar, wind and battery storage facilities in Wisconsin over the next five years, quadrupling the utility’s carbon-free power generation in the state.

From MGE’s perspective, spokesperson Steve Schultz said Red Barn is another step in the utility’s efforts to be a good steward of the environment.

“This is something that has been important to MGE and continues to be important to MGE,” he said.

Schultz added that partnerships between utilities, like the Red Barn project, are important for moving large-scale clean energy projects forward. He said both utilities are working forward on other large-scale solar and battery projects that are in various stages, including the Paris Solar-Battery Park, the Darien Solar Energy Center and the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center.

“It’s a benefit for everyone in terms of getting low-cost, carbon-free energy onto the grid,” he said. “By being able to partner with other utilities in the state, it just really helps spread out that renewable energy.”

That partnership helped Red Barn become WPS’ largest wind park ownership stake in the state. Cullen said WPS also operates the Forward Wind Park in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, which generates more electricity than Red Barn but is split between several companies, meaning WPS’ ownership share of that project is smaller. It also owns and operates a 99 megawatt wind farm in Iowa.

Meanwhile, Schultz said MGE’s roughly 10 percent stake in the Red Barn project will help replace energy from fossil fuel facilities that are being retired.

“We are always really actively evaluating potential wind and solar generation sites as part of our ongoing transition toward a more sustainable energy future for the communities we serve,” he said.

The clean energy transition could help utilities not only address climate change, but also save customers money. Cullen said WEC Energy Group estimates that its renewable investments, including Red Barn, are expected to save customers $2 billion over the next 20 years.

“Red Barn Wind Park is an opportunity for not only Wisconsin Public Service, but also for Madison Gas and Electric to provide that affordable, reliable and clean energy to meet the needs that our customers have,” he said.