Arch Electric completes state’s largest privately owned solar system

Green Valley Dairy's solar field in Krakow, Wis. installed by Arch Electric/Arch Electric

Arch Electric completed the largest privately owned solar array in Wisconsin history at Green Valley Dairy located north of Green Bay in Krakow. 

The more than 1.8 megawatt solar field was officially put into service on Sept. 3, beating Arch Electric’s previous record of a 1.6 megawatt rooftop at an Ikea in Oak Creek, south of Milwaukee.

The Sheboygan County-based electrical company is considered the largest vertical provider of solar in Wisconsin, meaning it designs and installs the project itself. The system at Green Valley Dairy was a unique collaboration between Arch Electric, Green Valley Dairy and Outagamie Clean Energy Partners.

“Sustainability isn’t just a goal for our family farm; it’s something we live out each day,” said John Jacobs of Green Valley Dairy. “We’re happy to work with Arch Electric on this solar installation as we continue looking for ways to increase sustainability and live responsibly while delivering for our customers.”

The system consists of 20 rows of solar panels in a 7.5-acre parcel of land owned by Green Valley Dairy. Producing over 2.2 megawatts of clean energy annually are 4,940 panels mounted on metal racking that are integrated with 10 solar inverters. 

The solar energy generated annually will offset carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to more than 1.7 million tons. That’s comparable to 8.7 railcars worth of coal burned or over 155,000 gallons of diesel fuel burned. 

The reduction in greenhouse gases will be equal to over 340 cars driven in one year or over 3.9 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle. 

Green Valley Dairy has a history of adopting new technology from a state-of-the-art milking parlor to an anaerobic digester and biogas upgrading plant that turns captured methane into renewable natural gas for vehicles. The solar array will be used to power portions of the dairy including its gas operation, which is in partnership with Outagamie Clean Energy Partners.

“The Jacobs’ willingness to invest in clean energy is a testament to their commitment to the community and the state of Wisconsin,” said Chris Lenzendorf, vice president of business development at Outagamie Clean Energy Partners. “Their vision will serve as an example of how Wisconsin dairy is leading the way when it comes to balancing responsible farm growth and the environment.”

Arch Electric was able to turn around this project in six months from the time it put ink on a contract in early March to turning it on by the beginning of September, according to Arch Electric’s Chief Instigation Officer Mike Cornell. 

Also amid a global pandemic, Arch Electric hired roughly 25 people. In five years, the company went from nine to 90 employees. Cornell told that there has been “tremendous” interest in the private sector for solar because it’s the lowest cost alternative to conventional electricity. 

“It’s the lowest cost alternative. So if somebody is interested in investing in some kind of a fossil fuel plant, especially the small utilities or a commercial entity, they are now able to realize that solar is at or below the cost of what they can do … in fossil fuel,” he said. “Even given the super low cost of fossil fuel right now … solar is competitive with natural gas power plants.”

Arch Electric already has plans in place to beat its new record. It has started a project at another dairy to install a larger solar field, Cornell said. 

“It makes sense with the incentives and the credits and the ROI,” he said of private industries moving towards clean energy. “This is a significant investment that’s going to have an incredible return on investment. If you brought this pro forma to any investor, it’s a hands down no-brainer.”

-By Stephanie Hoff