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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Keynotes and Theme Set for January Renewable Energy Policy Summit

Event to Spotlight Mainstreaming of Clean Energy

Immediate release                    
December 20, 2016

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

RENEW Wisconsin will host its sixth annual Renewable Energy Policy Summit on Thursday, January 19th, 2017, at Monona Terrace in Madison. The theme of the event, "Clean Energy Goes Mainstream," will highlight the significant expansion of renewable power underway in Wisconsin, both at the customer and utility level.

This one-day event will feature two keynote speakers.

- Barbara Nick, CEO of La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, which has entered into contracts to supply its member co-ops with renewable electricity from a large wind power project in Lafayette County and 14 solar arrays across western Wisconsin. Barb will explain why Dairyland decided to accelerate its own clean energy transition and how its new sources of solar and wind energy will benefit its member cooperatives.

- Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar, which is working to make solar power the go-to energy resource in all 50 states. As the afternoon keynote, Adam will highlight solar’s dramatic expansion in recent years, including its impact on the national economy and on local economies throughout the United States. He will also discuss the critical role that state policy will play in maintaining solar’s momentum.

Ms. Nick will kick off the summit program with her keynote address, followed by a panel session discussing the driving forces behind the clean energy transition and its broadening appeal among homeowners, businesses, and policymakers.

After lunch, RENEW will recognize the most noteworthy clean energy installations launched or energized this year in Wisconsin, as well as the individuals, organizations, and communities that made them happen.

Adam Browning will launch the afternoon program with his keynote, followed by an industry panel session examining the factors propelling the clean energy expansion, and identifying the mix of policies and practices for sustaining that expansion.

The program will feature networking opportunities with exhibitors and attendees, as well as a social hour following the close of the formal program.

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner says, “We chose this year’s theme to highlight the acceleration of clean energy across corporate America, utilities, and everyday homeowners.  Solar energy is poised to continue its growth in Wisconsin, while wind power and biogas appear on the verge of making comebacks.  All these resources are cost-effective today, and can provide significant value to Wisconsin if deployed more aggressively.”

Summit registration is open and over 150 individuals have already signed up.  Rates are $120 for Members of RENEW Wisconsin, $150 for non-members, $90 for government and non-profit employees, and $35 for students. Membership with RENEW starts at $35 for individuals and $200 for businesses and organizations.

For more information on the 2017 program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit our website.  

An impressive list of corporate and organizational sponsors has already signed on to support the event, which are showcased on the final page.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Businesses Lead the Way on Solar at Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference

By Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager

Wisconsin’s businesses are leading the way on solar, and they’re encouraging their colleagues do the same. That was the message last week in Onalaska, as RENEW Wisconsin’s Tyler Huebner convened a panel at the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference.

RENEW Wisconsin brought together executives from Gundersen Health System of La Crosse, Reynolds Transfer of Madison, and Phillips Medisize of Phillips to talk about how investing in solar energy has helped their companies save money and meet their sustainability goals.

Gundersen Health Systems' Sparta Clinic
Photo credit: Gundersen Health Systems.
Gundersen Health Systems’ Alan Eber explained that his company is able to save significant costs by building its clinics to use about half as much energy as a typical healthcare facility. “We take the architecture guidelines of 2030 and apply them today,” said Eber, explaining how this results in much lower costs over the life of its buildings. “For us, it’s all about reducing waste.” Gundersen has invested in a 100kW solar array on top of its new clinic in Sparta. To meet its full commitment to energy independence, the company will also buy the output from 220kW of Xcel Energy's shared solar array under development. Gundersen Health Systems has been recognized as RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy-Independence Enterprise of the Year.

Reynolds Transfer and Storage's solar
array. Photo credit: SunPeak.
Ben Reynolds of Madison-based Reynolds Transfer and Storage also shared his positive solar experience with the crowd. Reynolds, a sixth-generation member of the family-owned business, led the procurement and installation of 48kW of solar on the company’s two warehouse facilities in Madison. Reynolds estimates that the solar array will save them about $7,500 every year, not including the money the company has saved by converting some of its power load from gas to electricity and timed its use to capitalize on the solar panels’ production. Read more about Reynolds Transfer and Storage’s solar project here.

Jonathan Roberts of SoCore Energy shows off Dairyland
Power Cooperative's latest solar array, located near New Richmond.
 Photo credit: SoCore Energy.
Dan Andersen of Phillips Medisize explained that his company took a different approach. The medical device manufacturer’s leaders looked into installing solar on-site, but decided they liked the ease and simplicity of investing in a shared solar array. So Phillips Medisize will buy a portion of its power every month from two new community solar arrays built in New Richmond and Eau Claire.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Content kicked off the session by sharing new national polling showing the vast and diverse support that renewable energy garners nationwide. Polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies immediately following the November elections found that 76% of Americans support installing more solar energy.

The fact that solar energy is so popular should be of interest to businesses considering solar, pointed out RENEW’s Huebner. “Businesses that invest in solar and renewables are on the correct side of the citizens and therefore customers, suppliers, and employees.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Statewide Funding for Renewable Energy Incentives Increased to $8.6 million

Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin finalized decisions related to Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program for 2017 and 2018.

Overall Funding: The first item to note is that the total funding for renewable energy incentives is now $8.6 million over the 2017-18 two-year period.  This is up from $7.7 million decided in their previous meeting of October 20th, and reflects an additional $900,000 from unspent funds remaining in the now-terminated Renewable Energy Loan Fund.

Funding by Program:  The Commission decided to fund programs at the following levels, largely agreeing with recommendations RENEW Wisconsin put forth in late October. Business customers will be able to take advantage of Prescriptive Incentives, which offer pre-determined levels of funding for eligible technologies like solar PV and geothermal projects, as well as the Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP), which accepts competitive proposals and awards grants for larger projects.

Based on RENEW Wisconsin’s understanding of the Commission’s discussion today, we estimate the budgets accordingly.

Note that these figures may change as more information becomes available.
Incentive Level for Solar PV:  The Commission also adjusted the incentive levels and caps on project sizes for solar photovoltaic systems. The commission lowered the incentive from about 16% of the cost of an average project--$600 per kW--to 12% of the project cost, which will adjust yearly with average market prices. At this year's prices, the incentive would be $450 per kW, according to Commission Chairperson Ellen Nowak. Nowak noted that the solar incentives have been very popular and fully spent down in each year and that reducing the incentive level to match falling market prices would allow more installations to be funded.

Following recommendations from staff and RENEW, the Commission also agreed to raise the maximum eligible project size from 4kW to 8kW for business customers. Residential incentive eligibility will remain capped at 4kW.

“We applaud the Commission’s decision to continue to fund these critical projects,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “These highly successful incentive programs will ensure that renewable energy thrives in Wisconsin, keeping our energy costs low and our energy jobs local.”

In addition, the Commission directed $20 million in funding to expand biogas production on dairy farms. An interagency working group will release a joint RFP for a network of interconnected anaerobic digesters, which will allow manure from dairy farms to be converted into renewable natural gas. The Commission noted the many benefits that anaerobic digesters have to offer in Wisconsin, from improving water quality, to nutrient management and local, renewable energy. RENEW Wisconsin has closely followed and supported statewide initiatives to deploy biogas technologies. For more information and our take on Governor Scott Walker’s recent announcement, visit our blog.

Finally, the Commission outlined new programs for rural customers that will align greater access to broadband with participation in Focus on Energy’s efficiency programs. The Commission announced $16 million in funding for new programs that provide broadband-connected energy efficiency devices like smart thermostats and smart power strips, $4 million for energy efficiency retrofits for broadband providers’ facilities and $6 million in additional programs for agricultural energy management, rural small business support and others.


Friday, November 18, 2016

PSC Nearly Doubles Monthly Fixed Charge for Alliant Electricity Customers


For Immediate Release - November 18, 2016
For More Information:  Tyler Huebner, Executive Director, 608-255-4044 ext 1


(Madison, WI).   In today’s open meeting, the Public Service Commission sharply hiked the monthly “fixed charge” that Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light residential electricity customers will face by 95%, from $7.67 per month up to $15 per month.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin building in Madison.
The “fixed charge” is the base fee which all customers must pay each month, no matter how much energy they use.  Overall, Alliant’s residential customers will see their monthly electricity bills increase by 4-5%.

By contrast, the fixed charge that Alliant’s Iowa customers must pay every month remains at $10.50.

“Increasing the fixed charge will raise bills for customers that use smaller amounts of electricity monthly, such as seniors, apartment-dwellers, and energy-conscious customers including those who have installed solar panels,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.

RENEW Wisconsin and a broad set of stakeholders have opposed hikes in fixed charges since 2014,
when these requests first appeared.

“Wisconsin electricity customers now pay dramatically higher fixed charges than their counterparts in other states,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  Our testimony documented that the vast majority of state agencies nationally are either rejecting these fixed charge hikes outright, or granting much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly doubled.”

As documented by RENEW in testimony, the increase in fixed charges granted to U.S. investor-owned utilities since 2014 has averaged about 14%.  But for the five investor-owned utilities in Wisconsin, the average fixed charge increase has been 83%.

-END-

RENEW Wisconsin leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. More information on RENEW’s web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.

RENEW Wisconsin Statement on Governor Walker’s Biodigester Announcement

For immediate release                    
November 18, 2016                  

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

Governor Scott Walker at Heritage Farm in Kewaunee,
with RENEW's Tyler Huebner in the background.
Yesterday, RENEW Wisconsin was in the audience as Governor Scott Walker announced the State of Wisconsin’s intention to invest in biodigesters that will turn dairy manure into renewable energy while assisting with improvements in water quality.

Governor Walker announced that the Public Service Commission, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection are working together to deliver a Request for Proposals in January 2017.  The request for proposals will allow private firms to submit bids to meet the goals and specifications set out by the agencies.

A major goal of the initiative is to aid with water quality problems in environmentally sensitive areas of the state, and the announcement was made in Kewaunee, one of those regions.  Governor Walker indicated that this initiative is one of a series of steps, and not in and of itself the only solution, needed to aid water quality in Kewaunee County.

Wisconsin is the national leader in deploying biodigesters, also known as anaerobic digesters, on farms.  We have 34 farms with digesters in Wisconsin.  These systems turn cow manure into solids, liquids, and methane, which is an energy resource that is the primary component of what we commonly call “natural gas.”

In many of the digesters on farms in Wisconsin today, the methane is cleaned and passed through a generator to create electricity, which is sold to the local power company.  Most of these digesters are located right on the premises of the dairy farms.

The system envisioned by the Governor’s announcement, according to a recent interim order from the Public Service Commission, might collect manure from farms of all sizes, and process it in a centralized biodigester.  Instead of using the methane to create electricity, it could be further cleaned and then injected into the natural gas delivery system.  Natural gas is used to heat homes and businesses as well as power industrial processes.  (The PSC’s interim order can be found here, see pages 9 thru 11).

“Biodigesters present a win-win-win for renewable energy, the environment, and farmers.  These systems are the ultimate recycle and reuse operation,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Moreover, Wisconsin is blessed with companies that know how to design, engineer, build, and operate these systems such as Chilton-based DVO, Inc., BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, Miron Construction of Neenah, Symbiont of West Allis, and Clean Fuel Partners of Madison.”

Digesters process manure in a way that can enable water quality improvement technologies to be added onto the system. Dane County has been investing in these systems over the past half-decade to accomplish similar water quality improvement goals, and their recently passed County Budget includes $18 million to inject methane collected at the landfill into the natural gas pipeline system, similar to what the state may be envisioning.

“Digesters can provide a lot of benefits when they are designed, engineered, and operated with proven technologies and by companies that have delivered solutions that work.  Leadership, collaboration, and transparency will be needed throughout the process to ensure the project’s success. The State’s leadership and funding commitment is a solid next step to bringing more digesters online in Wisconsin,” concluded Huebner.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dairyland’s Network of Solar Arrays to Expand Further

Anticipating the completion of a dozen solar projects in Wisconsin, La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative signed contracts this month to add three more arrays to its generation portfolio. With these three arrays Dairyland now has more 20 MW of solar generation under contract, almost all of it located in the Badger State (see table below). These arrays will produce emission-free power for Dairyland’s 25 member distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities.

Chicago-based SoCore Energy will build and
own the three new arrays. Two of the three arrays will be located in Wisconsin, and the third will go up in northeast Iowa. SoCore is also the developer of 11 of the initial 12 arrays announced by Dairyland in February.

All 15 arrays are located in the service territories of Dairyland’s member distribution cooperatives. In conjunction with Dairyland’s utility-scale arrays, many of the host cooperatives are adding their own panels to these installations, to serve customers who subscribe to their shared solar programs.

The environmental benefits from these arrays will go beyond clean energy. Every project site will be revegetated with native plants to create bee and butterfly habitat. When revegetation is complete, SoCore will seek certification of its projects as “pollinator gardens.”

One of the projects under construction, St. Croix Electric Cooperative’s Sunflower II array in Roberts, provided the backdrop for a solar media day on Monday, November 14th. RENEW's Michael Vickerman took part in the open house, providing RENEW's perspective on the rapid growth of solar generation throughout Wisconsin. The Sunflower II project is about 30 miles east of St. Paul, Minn., and 55 miles west of Eau Claire, Wis.






















Of the 45-50 MW of Wisconsin-based solar generating capacity likely to be operational by April 2017, Dairyland’s projects will account for nearly 40% of that total. As of today, the only multimegawatt array producing power under contract to a Wisconsin electric provider is the 2.25 MW installation in Rock County owned by Hanwha Q CELLS USA, which supplies electricity to Wisconsin Power & Light.

For more information on Dairyland’s newest solar projects, see: http://www.dairylandpower.com/dcontent/article/DPCannouncesadditionalsolarcontracts.pdf

As a reminder, Barbara Nick, CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, will speak at our 2017 Energy Policy Summit, Clean Energy Goes Mainstream, on January 19, 2017. Learn more and register today!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RENEW Issues Letter of Support for Biomass Thermal Utilization Act

RENEW Wisconsin sent the below letter of support for the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, which would extend a 30% investment tax credit to high efficiency biomass thermal energy systems, to Wisconsin's Senators Baldwin and Johnson, and Representatives Duffy, Grothman, Kind, Moore, Pocan, Ribble, Ryan, and Sensenbrenner.








I am writing to communicate RENEW Wisconsin’s strong support for the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act (BTU Act), sponsored by Senators King and Collins and Congressmen Welch and Gibson. If adopted, the provisions of the BTU Act will help accelerate installation of high efficient biomass thermal systems in communities around the country. This would drive economic development up and down the biomass value chain, including the creation of new jobs to serve the biomass fuel delivery infrastructure needed to supply these systems.

The BTU Act would add biomass thermal energy technologies to Sections 25D and 48 of the tax code, therefore extending a 30% investment tax credit to high efficiency biomass thermal energy systems. This would level the playing field with other renewable energy technologies that already qualify for investment tax credits. While biomass thermal does not need a permanent investment credit, the high initial capital cost is the major obstacle to broader market adoption. The current tax structure is unfair to biomass thermal technologies and is hindering the industry’s growth.

The proposal was scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation at $134 million over 10 years. RENEW Wisconsin supports a 5-year authorization which reduces its estimated cost to the U.S. Treasury to $67 million.

Please vote in support of the BTU Act (S. 727 and H.R. 1145) during the next legislative session, so the biomass thermal energy industry will begin 2017 driving economic development on a level playing field with other renewable energy technologies.

Sincerely,


Tyler Huebner
Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin

Friday, October 21, 2016

RENEW Issues Letter of Support for Parisi's Clean Energy Initiatives

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announces
solar initiatives for the 2017 budget
In late September, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi unveiled plans to triple the amount of county-owned solar generation--from 330 kilowatts to 1 megawatt--and convert the county's main landfill into a source of clean renewable methane for injection into a nearby natural gas pipeline. A portion of the landfill's output will power 75 heavy-duty vehicles in the county's fleet by the end of 2017. See the press release here.

In advance of the County Board's budget hearing on October 19, RENEW expressed its vigorous support for Parisi's initiative in a letter circulated to Dane County supervisors. Please contact your supervisor and ask him or her to support the clean energy provisions in the 2017 budget proposal.

See our letter of support below:








Date:    September 19, 2016

To:     Sharon Corrigan
          Chair, Dane County Board of Supervisors

          Jenni Dye
          Chair, Personnel and Finance Committee

From:    Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
              Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director

Re:     Clean Energy and Climate Change Provisions in the 2017 Dane County Budget Proposal

We write to communicate RENEW Wisconsin’s strong support for the clean energy and climate-change related provisions that appear in the proposed 2017 budget now before the County Board. If adopted, these provisions would greatly enhance the County’s ability to bring about a clean energy future for its citizens and its own operations. The investments contemplated in the capital budget will reduce energy-related expenses over the long term while generating new revenue streams that can help fund county operations or provide tax relief, while the creation of a new Office of Energy and Climate Change will enable Dane County to coordinate a forward-looking emissions reduction strategy with municipalities and other key stakeholders.

We endorse the following provisions in the capital budget:

1.    The investment of more than $2 million to build solar generation systems totaling 770 kilowatts at the Alliant Energy Center and the Dane County Jobs Center. These arrays will reduce pollution from county operations while lowering the county’s electric bills by more than $2 million over 20 years. We note that the County Executive’s office took great care to situate the new solar generating capacity at locations that will generate the greatest monetary savings. Adding the new arrays to its existing portfolio of systems will result in one megawatt of county-owned solar generation, by far the largest commitment of any Wisconsin county to what has become an affordable and locally available source of clean energy.  

2.    The investment of $18 million on infrastructure to produce pipeline-grade methane from the Rodefeld Landfill and enough compressed natural gas to power 75 county-owned vehicles by the end of 2017. This far-sighted initiative will enable Dane County to convert its Rodefeld facility from an electricity-generating energy center to one that supplies clean methane to a nearby pipeline. Transitioning the energy infrastructure at Rodefeld in this manner will insulate the County from the economic impact of drastically reduced electricity buyback rates in 2018. Indeed, the production of a low-carbon renewable fuel would generate a significant revenue stream likely to offset the initial investment in less than four years. This initiative would further advance the progress Dane County has already achieved in substituting renewable methane for fossil fuels to fuel its fleet of patrol trucks and snow plows. 

We endorse the following provision in the operations budget:

The creation of an Office of Energy and Climate Change within the County Executive’s Office. The purpose of this new office is to lead, shape and steer climate change mitigation strategies undertaken by public and private entities throughout the county. Several Dane County communities, most notably Madison, Middleton and Monona, have on their own launched significant initiatives to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The individual hired to staff this office would develop a countywide approach for engaging such stakeholder groups as municipalities, electric providers and businesses. Key near-term objectives for this office will be the formation of a Dane County Council on Climate Change, and the development of an action plan that integrates today’s piecemeal efforts into a coordinated and resourceful program.

The initiatives proposed in the 2017 budget would build upon a record of success in the clean energy and emissions reductions arenas, one that the County Executive and the County Board can take pride in. In recognition of Dane County’s achievements and its desire to lead the way on clean energy development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we urge the County Board to approve the budget provisions that will accelerate the momentum already in evidence.

Sincerely,


Tyler Huebner                           
Executive Director                       

Michael Vickerman
Program and Policy Director

cc: Dane County Board of Supervisors

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BIG VICTORY!! PSC Approves $7.7 Million in Renewable Energy Rebates and $10-$20 million in Biogas Spanning 2017 & 2018!


 
Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin authorized approximately $7.7 million in rebates spanning 2017 and 2018 to spur small, customer-based renewable energy projects throughout Wisconsin.

The rebates go to residential, business, and non-profit customers of eligible Wisconsin utilities, and enable the customers to install renewable energy technologies including solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass and small wind systems. 
Full Spectrum Solar installs a solar PV system via the MadiSUN program

Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, said, “From our renewable energy perspective, Chairperson Ellen Nowak may have said it best in her concluding remarks, stating, ‘This is a great win for Wisconsin.’ Indeed, continuing the highly successful renewable energy rebates for 2017 and 2018 is a great win.  This level of renewable energy rebate funding should support upwards of 500 solar electric home installations, 70 or more home geothermal installations, and dozens of larger business renewable energy projects for each of the next two years.  The program will help our residents save money and our companies stay cost-competitive.”

The Commission asked Staff to recommend how the renewables funding should be split between residential and business projects, as well as a review of the incentive levels in light of the fact that technology prices for renewable energy systems, specifically solar electric systems, have been dropping very quickly in recent years.  RENEW Wisconsin will provide our recommendations, and those of the renewable energy industry, to Commission Staff in the coming days.

In addition, the Commission will evaluate spending $10-$20 million to expand biogas production from anaerobic digesters on dairy farms.  Staff and program administrators will be developing biogas program options for the Commission to investigate within 30 days, along with program options for increasing Focus on Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy impacts in rural Wisconsin. 

The Commission agreed to lower its cash reserve from $30 million down to $5 million, which freed up dollars carried over from previous years to be put into programs starting in 2017.  Huebner said, “We applaud the Commission freeing up millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money from previous years to be put into programs now that will enable energy and dollar savings for customers across Wisconsin.

RENEW Wisconsin was the lead advocacy organization promoting the continuation of the renewable energy rebates.  We provided two separate memos describing the history and status of the renewable energy industry and its relationship with Focus on Energy and advocating for a continuation of rebates.  In addition, a sign-on letter promoting continuation of renewable energy rebates, which was supported by 41 businesses and organizations from throughout Wisconsin, was delivered to the PSC as part of the public comment period in this proceeding.

The PSC had authorized a renewable energy loan program in 2014 and allocated $10 million to it over four years.  Today, approximately two years into the program, the PSC decided to end the program and spend the remaining funds instead on rebates, which had outperformed the loan program in that two year period.

Biogas production through anaerobic digesters will also see a boost.  The PSC re-committed to spending $6.4 million on this technology, which it had authorized in 2014.  An initial plan to focus on smaller dairy farms was not as effective as envisioned.  Today, the PSC authorized the creation of an interagency working group to identify opportunities to expand this technology and its benefits of renewable energy production, water quality improvements, and on-farm revenue stability, and indicated that programs between $10 and $20 million should be investigated to spur this technology.

In its comments to the PSC, RENEW pointed out that we have world-class companies working in anaerobic digesters right here in Wisconsin that can help make this program a success.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2016 Ride with RENEW: Better than ever!

This past Sunday, October 2nd, RENEW Wisconsin hosted our 4th annual Ride with RENEW! While the day started off cloudy and a bit rainy, we finished our 33 mile ride in sunshine. We saw some fantastic renewable energy installations in the Fond du Lac area, and with a deadline of Friday, Oct 7th, we have raised $14,800 towards our $15,000 goal!

Thank you to all 202 donors who supported our Bike Ride this year thus far, and if you haven’t yet had the chance, please consider helping us meet the final $200! With that, we will successfully meet our $15,000 fundraising challenge from John and Mary Frantz for the 4th year in a row, bringing our 2016 total up to $30,000 for RENEW Wisconsin! We are honored by the continued generosity of John and Mary, and all our other supporters over the past 25 years.

We continued our trend of increasing ridership each year with a new record high of 41 riders this year! Thanks so much to everyone who turned out on Sunday.

This year, we were lucky enough to have Brian Kolstad of Wisnet.com accompany us as our official photographer, and he got some great shots! We put together an album on Google Photos so everyone can see the highlights of the day.

Special thanks to our sponsors, and also our excellent hosts from Fond du Lac: Jeanne & John McDowell and Tom Schuppe. We couldn’t have done it without all their hard work!


Ride Summary

We began the day with brief overviews of the renewable energy measures taken by UW-Fond du Lac and Fond du Lac High School, which are right next to each other. David Demezas told us how UW-Fond du Lac incorporates a demonstration solar panel into its curriculum, while Margie told us about the process Fond du Lac High School went through to install geothermal heating and cooling at the facility that saves the school $290,000 annually on its energy bill.

Next, we rode along the freshly completed Fond du Lac Bike Loop to Grande Cheese’s new research center and headquarters. Grande Cheese applied for LEED Gold certification, and we got to tour with Scott to learn about all the energy efficiency measures taken by Grande Cheese. And, it gave us a chance to warm up inside!

After our tour of Grande Cheese, we stopped at Vir Clar Farm, a 2,000 head dairy farm, to visit the anaerobic digester there. Grant Grinstead, fourth generation owner of Vir Clar Farm, gave us the details on why a digester made sense for his family, farm, and community.  The farm is “producing milk and power for America” – enough power for 800 homes.

Then we had our most difficult climb of the day, a ride up the Niagara Escarpment to our lunch destination, Eden Community Center. Thanks to Eden Meat Market Catering for our delicious meals, and to Agnesian Healthcare for sponsoring our lunch!

After lunch we headed to the Cedar Ridge Wind Farm in Eden, WI, owned and operated by Alliant Energy. Brian Dierksheide of Alliant Energy told us about the wind farm, which produces enough energy for 17,000 homes’ annual usage in the area!  Brian said throughout the lifetime of the wind farm, it has displaced enough coal to fill a coal train 80 miles long – pretty impressive.


Finally, on our longest leg of the trip, we headed to the Sisters of St. Agnes’ 250 kilowatt solar array. With the sun shining bright for the first time all day, Sister Sue spoke with us about why her congregation decided to install solar, and Jesse Michalski of Eland Electric, who installed the project and sponsored this stop, told us how the project operates.

Overall, it was a great day of riding and renewable energy! A huge thank you to everyone who helped us make this event possible, particularly all our generous donors, John and Mary Frantz for once again providing the match, and our local hosts, Jeanne & John McDowell and Tom Schuppe.

If you donated $35 or more, you are now considered a member of RENEW and we are happy to have you with us. You will receive e-newsletters from us and can keep up to date via our website and blog.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wisconsin Households Warm Up to Solar Group Purchases

Full Spectrum Solar workers install a solar array for the
MadiSUN Group Buy Program.
By the end of this year, nearly 100 Wisconsin households will become owners of new solar PVsystems on their rooftops as a result of four group purchase programs initiated in 2016.  The communities served by these programs are Milwaukee (and neighboring Shorewood), Madison, Racine and Eau Claire (see table below).

Solar group purchase programs are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of installing solar panels on individual houses. In a typical solar group purchase, a city and/or a community organization works with a single contractor to simplify the site assessment, permitting, installation and interconnection process at a preset price to interested households. By organizing these installations in a single package, the contractor is able to acquire equipment from suppliers at a discount, and pass the savings to the group program participants.

Individual households are invited to attend meetings in and around the community, where they can gather information about the program offerings (including incentives and financing options) and arrange for a free site assessment.

Though not new in Wisconsin, solar group purchasing is having a breakout year this year, due to the convergence of several factors.

- Continued declines in equipment costs;  
- An increase in state incentive dollars this year for residential solar installations;
- A judicial decision in October 2015 that invalidated an onerous solar connection charge in We Energies’ territory. 

The judicial reversal arose from a lawsuit filed by RENEW and The Alliance for Solar Choice challenging We Energies’ solar charge, which was approved by the Public Service Commission in November 2014. It is hard to overstate the importance of that court decision, since more than 70 of the nearly 100 households participating in community group purchasing programs are customers of We Energies. Had that solar connection charge taken effect in January 2016, the cost of going solar would have risen by 30% in We Energies territory. 

Wisconsin's two largest cities are running their solar group purchases through their respective Solar America programs (Milwaukee Shines and MadiSUN). Milwaukee is partnering with Midwest Renewable Energy Association while Madison has paired up with RENEW. In contrast, local solar enthusiasts such as Tom Rutkowski in Racine, and Steve and Ellen Terwilliger in Eau Claire, took the initiative in organizing SOLARacine and Chippewa Valley Affordable Solar, respectively.  Chippewa Valley Affordable Solar, the newest of the four programs to get off the ground, is set to continue operating through 2017. The MadiSUN program is likely to field another group purchase program next year as well.

It is clear that the group purchasing model works in Wisconsin and it is  our hope that the successes in 2016 will spur community or environmental organizations elsewhere in Wisconsin to launch similar initiatives in their back yards.

Additional links to media stories about Wisconsin solar group purchase programs:

Racine:
http://journaltimes.com/business/local/racine-solar-group-purchase-set-homes-participating/article_8377b080-e87f-515b-b737-74b314e97ce7.html

Milwaukee:
http://city.milwaukee.gov/MilwaukeeShines/Get-Solar/Solar-Group-Buys.htm#.V-v4xcm6968
http://www.wpr.org/milwaukee-area-residents-finding-way-go-solar-group-buy-program

Racine and Milwaukee:
http://archive.jsonline.com/business/buying-in-bulk-group-effort-helps-bring-down-solar-costs-b99760614z1-386892691.html

Eau Claire:

http://chippewa.com/dunnconnect/business/chippewa-valley-residents-can-join-group-buy-for-solar-installations/article_6b9b6ab0-5c62-5881-bebf-5d10c0c59d9d.html

Madison:
https://madisunsolar.com/

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/hundreds-seek-more-information-on-madisun-solar-group-buy-program/article_058a78f1-9a72-5df6-b6d1-d1e386573b78.html

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Local boom in solar interest means City program set to exceed its goals

September 13, 2016 – Madison.

Nearly 350 households in the Madison area have signed up to take the first step toward solar power for their homes, exceeding enrollment expectations for the MadiSUN Solar Group Buy Program. The City of Madison announced the Group Buy Program, along with a new Solar Energy Loan, in June of this year.

Twelve households have already signed contracts to install rooftop solar systems, putting the program well ahead of its goal to contract 15 solar systems by November 1, 2016. The solar systems contracted so far represent 55kw of solar electric capacity and over $150,000 in local renewable energy sales.

As MadiSUN approaches the end of its recruitment period on Monday September 19th, program managers remain optimistic that more households will choose to go solar.

“We are really pleased with the level of interest we’ve seen,” said Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager at RENEW Wisconsin, the nonprofit program administrator. “Madison families recognize that putting solar panels on their homes can lower their energy costs and increase their property values. But it’s also an investment they can be proud to make. This is a step in the right direction.”

Interested households can sign up until Monday September 19 by visiting madisunsolar.com.

The success of the MadiSUN Group Buy comes at a time when cities across Wisconsin are looking at expanding access to solar. Solar group buy programs in Milwaukee, Racine and Eau Claire have also taken off this year. Nationwide, 73 percent of Americans say they want the US to prioritize renewable energy sources like solar and wind over fossil fuels like oil and gas.[1]

Many households are investing in solar to help their personal finances—a typical 4kw system can save a household over $1,700 in energy costs for each year of its 30-year life. But local solar energy businesses are also seeing a boost to their bottom lines.

 “The MadiSUN Group Buy has been great in helping in us grow our business,” said Burke O’Neal of Full Spectrum Solar, a Madison-based solar installer selected to serve the group. As a result of the surge in new business, Full Spectrum Solar has hired an additional full-time staff member in its office and several part-time installers for its field crews.

Approximately 70 households have already taken advantage of a free solar property assessment, with dozens more scheduled this fall.

Madison resident Brian Lavendel is installing solar panels for himself and his neighbors, who rent the other part of Lavendel’s 2-unit home. “It was easy—it was like one-stop shopping. I attended an information session, which was particularly helpful because it brought together all of the pieces—the Group Buy, the federal tax credit, and the Focus on Energy program—so I got all of my questions answered. The fact that it was a Group Buy, with terms all set up, helped too. I didn’t have a lot of time to research the different companies and panels. I knew that RENEW Wisconsin had already negotiated on my behalf, so to speak,” Lavendel said. “This is something I’ve thought about for a long time. The low price of the panels and the increased efficiency in their energy production made it feasible. I probably could have done it earlier, but the MadiSUN program made it easy.”

Program Background: The MadiSUN Group Buy for Rooftop Solar program enables Madison residents to “go solar” together.  The program selected Madison-based business Full Spectrum Solar to serve the group. The City’s investment in marketing and competitive bidding drove down the cost for each participant, resulting in savings of about 14 percent.

The cost of installing solar has never been lower, as homeowners can receive a Federal Tax Credit for 30 percent of the system cost, while Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program offers up to $2400 in rebates for installing solar.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin launched the programs in June as part of the City of Madison’s broader efforts to be more reliant on renewable energy sources. “These programs are going to be a financial win for all of us,” said Mayor Soglin in June as he launched the MadiSUN program.  “They’re going to be a financial win for those who invest in solar and they’re going to be a financial win for our larger community.” In June the City passed an energy plan that seeks more renewable resources and proposes an inventory of city-owned land for solar energy development.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Other states balk at hiking utility fixed fee

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Content concludes that Wisconsin's PSC has been far more generous to utility requests to raise monthly fixed charges on customers than regulators in other states.  His article relies on research and testimony that RENEW Wisconsin submitted in Alliant Energy's pending rate case, which contains a proposal to increase the fixed charge on residential customers from $7.56 today to $18 in 2018. In our direct testimony, RENEW urges the PSC to cap any increase approved at no more than $12/month, in line with the fixed charges assessed on residential customers in Sun Prairie and Stoughton, which are both served by municipal electric utilities surrounded by Alliant.

Read the full article online here, or below.

As Alliant Energy Corp. seeks to more than double its fixed customer charge on monthly electric bills over the next two years, a review of rate cases around the country finds that regulators in other states are taking a dimmer view of these proposals than Wisconsin.

Critics say the proposals to increase fixed fees, also known as monthly customer charges, penalize apartment dwellers and those who have taken steps to conserve energy. Utilities say they're a fairer way to pay for the utility system.

Over the past two years, Wisconsin utilities have been aggressive in seeking big expansions of the customer charge, and the state Public Service Commission has been receptive, granting average increases of about 66%.

But around the country, as the issue has received more attention, 48 different utilities that have proposed to increase the fixed charge by at least 52% have had to settle for about one-fourth of that — just a 14% increase.
              
The increases represent a strategy that utilities turn to as a way to boost revenues at a time when electricity sales growth has flattened, with the prevalence of energy-saving devices and efforts by some customers to conserve to keep costs down.

Utilities say they're trying to have the fixed portion of the bill start to represent parts of the utility system that don't fluctuate with the price of energy. But consumer advocates say the changes penalize those who use little energy or have taken steps to conserve.

A key bone of contention between utilities and their critics is whether these fixed charge hikes pose a chilling effect on whether to conserve energy.

However, what is clear is that electricity customers who do not use a lot of energy face the biggest percentage price increases from moves to hike fixed charges.

An analysis of the impact of the rate changes proposed by Alliant's Wisconsin Power and Light utility shows how the proposed charges would affect different kinds of customers. Under Alliant's proposal, a customer who uses a typical amount of electricity every month would see fees increase of about 5% by 2018.

But a customer in a very large home, using twice as much power each month, would see bills drop by 1% by 2018. And someone who uses half as much power as the typical customer, whether living in a small apartment or having taken steps to cut back on power use, would see a much bigger increase of 17% in monthly bills.

Apartment dweller Hank Jacobi in Milwaukee says customers should be aware of the impact of fixed charges. He recalls when the We Energies charge was just 20 cents a day, and now it's 52.

Jacobi spent more than two months in the hospital after a bicycle crash. When he returned home, he found that his monthly bill had gone up by about 26%.

"When I was away form home for 82 days, the fixed charge was still getting me," he said. "It’s the charge you cannot avoid, no matter how many lights go off."

Jacobi said it's not that he can't afford to pay more. But the 75% increase granted to We Energies in 2014 adds up to $82 a year for him.

“I know an awful lot of people in the city are in tough shape. For them to pay that much more a year, it’s going to hit hard,” Jacobi said. “They’ve been cut left and right, up and down.”

In a case now pending in Madison, Alliant Energy's Wisconsin Power and Light Co. utility contends that recent PSC decisions involving other utilities show that its own fixed charge is well below the pack. After recent increases, Alliant's fixed charge stands at just $7.67, well below We Energies ($16 a month),  Madison Gas & Electric Co. ($19) and  Wisconsin Public Service ($21).

Alliant's proposal calls for more than doubling the charge, starting with a 56% increase in the customer charge in 2017, to $12 from $7.67. That would be followed by a 50% increase, to $18 a month, in 2018. The total increase: 135%.
              
"While the customer-charge change will increase bills for low users and decrease bills for high users, the change itself is neutral for the average customer," Brian Penington, director of regulatory affairs at Alliant, said in a filing with the PSC. "On the whole, residential customers will experience a small increase ... but WPL’s residential rates will continue to be among the lowest rates for Wisconsin’s large investor-owned utilities."

Other states are taking a more skeptical view of fixed-charge increases, with some regulators rejecting any increase because it would discourage energy conservation.

Since 2014, 48 utilities in states other than Wisconsin have proposed to increase their fixed charges, by an average of 53%. A review of regulators' decisions, compiled by the advocacy group Renew Wisconsin, found that commissions kept half of those fixed charges unchanged, and the average increase was 16%.

Inside Wisconsin, the PSC has approved much larger increases, with utilities seeking 96% on average and receiving 66%. But the commission in recent cases has given the utilities somewhat less, Renew Wisconsin says.

The utility says the cost of equipment to connect customers to the power grid has risen over the years, but its customer charge has remained in the range of $5 to $8 a month for more than two decades.

"Because we collect more of the power grid’s overall costs in the per-kilowatt-hour charge, and because we haven’t raised our fixed charge in many years, over time low-use customers have begun to pay less than what it costs to serve them," said Annemarie Newman, a spokeswoman for Alliant.

A majority of the lowest energy users on the Alliant system are either vacation homes or cottages, according to the utility.

This is the first request by Alliant to change base electric rates since 2010, Newman said

Renew Wisconsin policy director Michael Vickerman said the increase "puts a larger portion of customer bills off-limits to potential savings from actions initiated by customers" to make their homes more energy efficient or to add solar power.

Renew urged the commission to cap Alliant's fixed charge at $12 a month, which still would be a more than 56% increase from the current fee.

Jonathan Wallach, representing the customer group Citizens Utility Board, recommended the PSC limit Alliant's customer charge to $9.

Nearly 100 Alliant customers have weighed in against the utility's proposal in public comments filed with the commission. A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28 in Madison. A decision by the PSC is expected late this year.

Alliant has about 465,000 electricity customers across the state, mainly in southern and central Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

RENEW Wisconsin Wins National “Regulatory Champion of the Year” Award

RENEW Wisconsin's Executive Director Tyler Huebner
receiving the Regulatory Champion of the Year award.
RENEW Wisconsin has been honored as the 2016 “Regulatory Champion of the Year” by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a national organization working on the advancement of clean energy.

The award was given at the annual Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday night.

RENEW won this people’s choice award for leading the campaign to overturn a proposal by We Energies, Wisconsin’s largest electric utility, to charge extra fees to customers who generate power for their own use from sources such as solar panels.  These so-called “connection fees” would have amounted to approximately $20 per month for a typical residential solar customer, and thousands of dollars per month for dairy farmers who generate electricity from cow manure.

After the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) approved We Energies’ unprecedented proposal in November 2014, RENEW Wisconsin partnered with The Alliance for Solar Choice, a national solar advocacy organization, to challenge the PSCW’s decision in Dane County Circuit Court.

In October 2015, Judge Peter Anderson ruled that there was not sufficient evidence in the regulatory proceeding to justify the agency’s decision allowing We Energies to impose additional fees on that subset of customers who produce power for their own use, giving RENEW Wisconsin and TASC the legal victory.

IREC’s 2016 3iAwards honor innovation, ingenuity, and inspiration from the nation’s best in both renewable energy and energy efficiency. This year, over 1,000 people voted for the finalists in the People’s Choice awards, which was “an impressively distinguished group of meritorious projects and acclaimed people” according to IREC’s website.

“Not only does renewable energy help citizens and businesses save money on their energy bills, it also drives economic expansion and creates family-supporting jobs.  The solar industry alone now has over 200,000 employees nationally.  Our legal victory protects the ability of citizens and businesses to use the sunshine striking their rooftops to reduce their electricity bills, and fuels growth in Wisconsin’s solar and renewable energy markets. We are honored to receive this recognition from an esteemed national organization and based on the popular support of our members and experts within our field,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.

See all the IREC 3iAward winners here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RENEW Wisconsin Announces Fond du Lac Area Bicycle Tour of Renewable Energy Projects

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608-575-2201 (cell)
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

On Sunday, October 2nd, RENEW Wisconsin will host its 4th annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour highlighting renewable energy projects, with this year’s tour taking place in Fond du Lac and Eden.

The bike tour will showcase five unique installations of renewable energy and energy efficient operations.  In total, the ride is approximately 30 miles long, and the pace is leisurely.  Each stop will include a brief tour and discussion with experts on the project.

Vir-Clar Farm's Anerobic Digester
The ride will start at UW-Fond du Lac’s parking lot, where the riders will learn about sustainability projects that UW-FdL and Fond du Lac High School have undertaken, including a geothermal heat pump and efficient lighting.

From there, riders will use the Fond du Lac Loop to go west and then south, making their way to the new Grande Cheese building. The building is very energy efficient, and the company has applied for a designation called "LEED," which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, to recognize its performance.

Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
Next, riders will go southeast of Fond du Lac to visit Vir-Clar Farm, where they are “producing milk and power for America.”  Vir-Clar has a system called an anaerobic digester which accepts cow manure from the dairy on-site, and uses the methane to generate electricity.  In addition, the remaining components from the manure are put to more effective and safe use.

The fourth stop will be Cedar Ridge Wind Farm in the Towns of Eden and Empire, where Alliant Energy representatives will provide an overview of the wind farm.  This is a utility-scale wind farm with 41 turbines that collectively produce enough energy for approximately 17,000 homes annually.
Sisters of St. Agnes' Solar Array

Finally, riders will head back north to visit the Sisters of Saint Agnes, who installed a large solar energy production project in 2015.  The solar project is about 50 times as big as a typical home solar installation.

Sponsors of the Ride include Eland Electric (Green Bay), Grande Cheese, Horicon Bank, Wegner CPAs, Madison Solar Consulting, J.F. Ahern, Miron Construction, Wisnet.com, and the Open Circle Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s Earth Justice Now committee.  There is still time to sponsor if your business or organization wishes to do so.

Registration for the ride is open until the Monday preceding the ride, September 26th.   The cost is $30 for members of RENEW Wisconsin, $40 for non-members, and $60 to both register for the ride and become a member of the organization for one year.  Lunch will be catered by Eden Catering and will take place in Eden.  The ride will start at 9am, and is expected to end by 4pm.

“We are very much looking forward to touring some of Fond du Lac and Eden’s great renewable energy projects on Sunday, October 2nd,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.  “Visiting Fond du Lac and Eden allows us to showcase a variety of ways to produce homegrown, clean energy right here in Wisconsin including wind, solar, and manure, and to learn more about innovative energy efficient building operations. This bike ride has historically been one of my favorite days of the year, and I anticipate 2016’s event will be phenomenal as well.”

Fond du Lac residents and members of RENEW Wisconsin Tom Schuppe and Jeanne & John McDowell have been instrumental in planning the route, logistics, and spreading the word. 

The “Ride with RENEW” bike tour has been in a different part of Wisconsin each year; previous rides were held in Madison, Milwaukee, and Lake Geneva.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Solar Panels Crop Up For Wisconsin Growers

by Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director, RENEW Wisconsin


Signs of solar energy’s increasing appeal to growers and farmers continue to proliferate across rural Wisconsin. In the span of three weeks, RENEW took part in three separate events that document how growers are turning to the sun to power their operations as well as to nurture their crops. 

 Heartland Farms' new operation center in Adams County
is powered in part from a 95 kilowatt solar array.
The first stop took us to Heartland Farms, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of chipping potatoes to many brands you see on grocery store shelves, located in Adams County a few miles west of Hancock.  A fifth generation family operation with over 24,000 acres under cultivation, Heartland dedicated its newly opened Farm Operations, Technology and Training Center on August 4th. On its roof sits a 95-kilowatt array of photovoltaic panels that help power Heartland’s offices and the information technology needed to manage an operation that ships 11,000 semiloads of potatoes each year. 

Incorporating sustainable features, including an onsite source of renewable electricity, into the functionality of the new building was a top priority of Alicia Pavelski, the family member who oversaw its design and construction. Says Pavelski: "Agriculture and sustainability have gone hand in hand for ages to ensure resources are available for generations to come. With advances in solar energy over the past few years, it was a logical next step for our farm. In the few short months we have had our array, it has been incredible to see the energy it has generated." 

Stevens Point-based North Wind Renewable Energy designed and installed Heartland’s solar electric system. North Wind has constructed similar-sized PV systems for Central Waters Brewery and Blenker Building Systems in Amherst, and Gaea’s Farm, a training facility for horses in Walworth County.

This 24 kW array produces about half the electricity
used at Brockway Cranberry, Inc., near Black River Falls.
The next week found us at the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association (WSCSGA) Summer Meeting, Field Day and Trade Show on the grounds of Brockway Cranberry Inc., located a few miles southeast of Black River Falls.  A supplier of cranberries to Ocean Spray, Brockway installed approximately 48 kilowatts of solar generation in 2012 and 2013, which powers the reservoir pumps as well as heats and lights the buildings on the premises.  This spring Brockway put in four smaller arrays that aerate the reservoir water at the 86-acre marsh.

Thanks to Brockway’s arrays and the abundant sunshine provided by Mother Nature on August 10th, the association’s meeting and trade show was no doubt the first 100% solar-powered cranberry industry  event anywhere.  For further information on Brockway Cranberry and its owner, Jim Bible, visit the accompanying article by Deb Dorshorst that appears in the program guide for that event.  

U.S. Solar Mounts, a solar contractor and ground mount system designer in nearby Sparta, constructed all of Brockway’s solar systems.  Eric Pipkin, the owner of U.S. Solar Mounts, specializes in designing heavy-duty mounting structures supporting solar installations. His company also engineers and builds custom and containerized power systems (primarily solar) for off-grid and remote applications.

Many large food brands have adopted aggressive sustainability goals for their own operations, and they expect their suppliers to adhere to the same tough standards that they do. For Heartland’s Pavelski and Brockway’s Bible, their investment in solar energy flows from a business ethic built around the careful use of natural resources and avoiding waste wherever possible. 

On August 16th, we journeyed to the Jerry Smith Country Store and Pumpkin Farm a few miles northwest of Kenosha. There, preparations were underway to slot in the final panel on a 9 kW array on the roof of a cheerfully decorated farm stand that has been operating at that location since 1971.

Beth Dankert of Smith Pumpkin Farm talking to a reporter
from WTMJ-TV (Channel 4 in Milwaukee).
Smith Pumpkin Farm director of fun Beth Dankert shepherded the gathering past the farm’s numerous attractions, which now include several pedestal-mounted tracking arrays in addition to the 27 panels on the store’s roof.

"We went from considering a small solar tracker out by our pond to really becoming a business that can operate 110% of our electrical needs off solar," Dankert told a WTMJ-TV reporter.

Walter Kreuser of Kenosha-based Kreuser Electric designed and installed the entire 18 kilowatt system, which will be energized before the end of August. A NABCEP-certified installer, Kreuser has also built solar electric systems for University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Gateway Technical College.

Kenosha-based solar installer Walter Kreuser adding the
final panel to the country store's rooftop array.
Support from Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy program, took the form of a rebate totaling $2,400 and a zero-percent loan that covers 50% of the total installation cost. People’s Bank in Silver Lake provided the other half of the financing package for Smith Pumpkin Farm’s solar system.

As we at RENEW approach the end of our Summer of Solar - 2016, one thing stands out: each day more and more people are making the connection between clean energy and healthy food, and Wisconsin’s agricultural producers are stepping up to give their customers what they want.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Three Wisconsin Firms Have Their Day in the Sun

RENEW Honors Businesses Investing in Solar Energy

In the span of one week, RENEW presented “Solar Champion” awards to three companies—JONCO Industries, Central Storage & Warehouse and O&H Danish Bakery--that now host some of the largest rooftop solar electric systems in the state of Wisconsin. The award presentations took place during individual ribbon-cutting ceremonies at each company, two of which were organized and emceed by RENEW’s incoming president Amy Heart. The three PV systems honored by RENEW have a combined rated capacity of about 1.26 MW(DC) .
Speaking at JONCO's ribbon cutting is Rep. David Bowen,
joined by Tom Ryan & his son, Leah Maggio of Focus on Energy,
Mayor Tom Barrett, and John Daugherty of SunVest.

Located in Milwaukee’s North Side, JONCO Industries hosts a new 370-kilowatt array on a 200,000-square-foot building it acquired in 2014 to expand its contract manufacturing capabilities. A number of local dignitaries, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, gathered on July 13 to praise JONCO’s achievement in integrating clean energy into his company’s operations. Said JONCO president Tom Ryan: "If we want to invest the money and time to build the rooftop solar. I'm not looking for today, but I've calculated it out — it's going to take me four years to pay for that roof."

On behalf of RENEW and Pewaukee-based SunVest, which designed and installed the array, RENEW Executive Director Tyler Huebner presented a certificate recognizing JONCO Industries as “the largest solar electricity producer among Wisconsin manufacturing companies."

The SunPeak team standing with CS&W owners
Jack & Ken Williams (extreme right).
Read more on JONCO’s solar installation in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
Later that day, Central Storage & Warehouse (CS&W), a Madison-based, family-owned  company that owns several refrigerated warehouses in Wisconsin, hosted an event celebrating its 2,904-panel solar system. The 741-kilowatt system designed and installed by Madison-based SunPeak is sized to produce 20% of the electricity consumed at the adjoining warehouse, which was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1991 that melted food in storage worth millions of dollars.

At the celebration Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and RENEW Program and Policy Director Michael Vickerman congratulated CS&W for embracing environmental performance and clean energy as it rebuilt its physical plant in the ensuing 25 years. This rebuilding culminated with the installation of the largest rooftop solar electric system in the state.  SunPeak  and RENEW presented a certificate to CS&W Vice President Jack Williams honoring the company’s leadership in advancing solar energy for Wisconsin businesses. Both Williams and Vickerman also praised the Focus on Energy program for providing critical funding support for this precedent-setting installation.

For more information about CS&W’s solar installation, visit SunPeak's website. 
O&H co-owner Eric Olesen cutting the ribbon while Rep.
Cory Mason, Michael Vickerman, and Amy Heart look on.


RENEW and SunVest teamed up again the following week to organize a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 152-kilowatt solar system atop O&H Danish Bakery’s new headquarters building in Mount Pleasant, near Racine. O&H built the 44,000-square-foot facility in 2015 to house all of its baking operations under one roof. The solar panels atop O&H’s roof should produce 180,000 kilowatt-hours a year, supplying about 25% of the electricity used in that building. O&H’s Mount Pleasant facility will enable the renowned Kringle maker to add about 25 new positions over the next three years.

RENEW’s new president, Amy Heart, presided over the ceremony, which attracted such local dignitaries as Rep. Cory Mason and M.T. Boyle, who represented Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave.  Several years ago, Rep. Mason authored legislation designating the Kringle as Wisconsin’s official pastry. Wrapping up, RENEW’s Michael Vickerman presented a Solar Champion certificate to O&H co-owner Eric Olesen, recognizing the company’s status as the largest solar electricity producer in Racine County and the largest solar electricity producer among Wisconsin bakeries.

Read more about O&H’s solar installation in a piece from TMJ4.

All three solar electric systems will enable these signature Wisconsin businesses to manage their energy costs more effectively and strengthen their economic position in the highly competitive business environments they operate in.  Focus on Energy funding support was instrumental in persuading these economic mainstays to plow their own savings into solar. The Public Service Commission will soon decide whether to continue rebates for renewable energy in 2017 and 2018. We hope to enlist these and other renewable energy hosts to educate the PSC on the positive connection between their renewable energy investments and the health of their businesses.