A roughly 2,000-panel solar project could be coming to Foxconn Technology Group’s property in Mount Pleasant.
We Energies and Foxconn announced a new partnership Thursday. The companies plan to seek approval from the village of Mount Pleasant and Racine County to move forward with the solar project, which they say will generate enough energy to power about 300 homes.
"We’re pleased to bring more clean energy to Wisconsin through this partnership with Foxconn," said Gale Klappa, executive chairman of WEC Energy Group, We Energies’ parent company. "As Foxconn expands its operations, this project will deliver affordable, reliable and clean energy for years to come."
We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway could not disclose the cost of the project, but said it will not impact customer rates.
According to the utility, the solar project is expected to generate enough energy to offset over 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s equivalent to taking 260 cars off the road or planting 20,000 trees.
Conway said the project will help WEC Energy Group meet its goals of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by the end of 2030 and to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
"Projects like this make a big difference in reducing emissions," he said.
Conway said energy generated by the system will feed the grid but will be purchased by Foxconn through We Energies’ Energy For Tomorrow program.
"That purchase … will basically offset the cost of the project," he said.
We Energies will lease land on the Mount Pleasant campus from Foxconn, as well as install, own and maintain the solar panels, Conway said. The project will be built on 22 acres around a retention pond on land that cannot be used for development and would otherwise sit empty.
"It's not something that can be used for manufacturing or other industrial uses," he said. "We're basically taking this land that can't be really used for anything else (and) we're putting solar panels on it."
Panels used in the project will be a mix of "single-axis tracking panels" and "fixed-tilt panels." Conway said tracking panels tilt in the direction of the sun to maximize energy production, while fixed tilt panels do not move with the sun.
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"We're really able to use different technologies (and) build it into an area that can't really be used for anything else, benefiting both Foxconn but also all of our customers with new clean renewable energy," he said.
In a statement, Foxconn said the project is one of the largest non-residential solar projects in Racine County.
"As Foxconn’s operations in Wisconsin expand in response to market demand, the presence of renewable energy resources within the park demonstrates our commitment to environmental stewardship across the manufacturing supply chain to our customers and the community," the statement read.
Foxconn says it has invested more than $1 billion in the state and employs 1,000 people who build data servers and motherboards.
The company has received about $37.4 million in state subsidies for its Mount Pleasant development, after its contract with the state was scaled back from the original 2017 pact that would have given the company almost $3 billion. The new contract allows Foxconn to receive up to $80 million for creating 1,454 jobs by 2024. The company initially planned to hire 13,000 employees.
Kelly Gallaher is a spokesperson for A Better Mount Pleasant, a watchdog group that tracks local government spending on the Foxconn project, and is running for Mount Pleasant village president against incumbent David DeGroot. She said the solar project doesn’t address the jobs Foxconn promised but never delivered.
"While I support solar energy, this doesn't really take us any closer to realizing any of the promises that Foxconn made to this community," Gallaher said.
The Village of Mount Pleasant and Racine County officials said they welcomed investment on the site.
"We welcome continued investment in Mount Pleasant at the Science and Technology Park and look forward to reviewing materials as part of the formal process for the Village Board of Trustees and County Board of Supervisors," the village and county said in a joint statement.