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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off Dairyland’s solar initiative

Representatives from Dairyland Power Cooperative, Richland Electric Cooperative, SoCore Energy and others gathered May 23rd on a sun-baked Richland County crop field to celebrate a breakthrough moment for utility-scale solar energy in Wisconsin. The symbol for this breakthrough is a 600 kilowatt (AC) solar array that will, when completed, supply 500 kW of electricity to Dairyland Power and 100 kW directly to Richland Electric under a 25 year contract.

The third participant in the groundbreaking ceremony, Chicago-based SoCore Energy, will build and own the Richland solar station as well as 10 others across western Wisconsin. La Crosse-based Dairyland Power and its host cooperatives will purchase the entire output from SoCore’s 11 arrays, which will total more than 14 megawatts.

Highlighting the course change that Dairyland and its member cooperatives are committed to, every Richland Electric employee present at the ceremony wore green shirts emblazoned with “Transition Energy.” This fact sheet contains more details on Richland’s Transition Energy initiative.

Presiding over the ceremony were Barb Nick, Dairyland Power’s CEO, and Shannon Clark, Richland Electric’s general manager. Both speakers praised solar power’s emergence as a clean, cost-effective, and locally available source of energy that complements the western Wisconsin landscape. Consisting of nearly 2,400 panels, SoCore’s array will occupy about one-half of an eight-acre parcel next to a Dairyland substation alongside State Highway 56.

[RENEW note: Barb Nick will be the keynote speaker at RENEW’s Energy Policy Summit set for January 2017.]

At the groundbreaking, Richland’s Clark unveiled details of the shared solar component to the project, which it calls the Ash Ridge Community Solar Project. Nearly 400 310-watt panels will be dedicated to Richland’s shared solar service, which is available to all of the cooperative’s 3,500 owner-members. The one-time subscription fee per panel is $699. The per-kilowatt- hour credit to subscribers will equal the cooperative’s retail energy rate.

Also participating in the groundbreaking were State Senator Jennifer Shilling, and State Assembly members Ed Brooks and Lee Nerison. WXOW-TV, Channel 19 in La Crosse, broadcast a segment on the groundbreaking that evening and aired a lengthier segment on solar energy’s breakthrough moment the following morning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Michael Vickerman: Considering investing in solar program

A letter to customers in Xcel Wisconsin's territory from RENEW's Michael Vickerman appeared in the La Crosse Tribune on April 26, 2016: 
Eau Claire Energy Cooperative's
872 kW Community Solar Array
With declining costs, solar electricity has become an increasingly affordable option for property owners wishing to power their homes with clean energy.
But what options are available for solar energy enthusiasts who have shading problems or roofs that need replacement within the next five years? And is there any path available for renters who want solar but don’t own the roof over their heads?
There is an option for La Crosse-area customers of Xcel Energy—every customer now can “plug in” to a community solar garden and reap the benefit of that clean energy directly on their electric bills.
With the recent rollout of Xcel’s Solar*Connect Community program, residential and business customers are stepping up to purchase a share in the output through up-front subscriptions that will likely be paid back in full after 20 years. Hopefully, their early action will inspire others in La Crosse and surrounding communities to join in and reap the solar harvest.
Grouping thousands of solar panels into one large array lowers the unit cost of the project to participants. Through this structure, every participating utility customer will share equitably in this clean power installation at a low cost.
Another segment of the community that benefits from shared solar is the nonprofit sector, which can solicit tax-deductible contributions from its members or donors to become solar buyers. Indeed, community solar is a great way for a benefactor to bestow a clean energy legacy for a particular school, nature center or house of worship.
Solar projects like these do not drop out of the sky and magically land in your community. These arrays are going up in western Wisconsin because the people there and utilities such as Xcel believe that their communities are ready to launch the transition to clean energy, and they worked hard to make these projects happen. They also believe that solar is a cost-effective energy option today when customers are given the opportunity to step up and support it.
La Crosse-area residents and businesses are fortunate to have this opportunity to take their energy future into their own hands. To Xcel customers living in the area, we at RENEW encourage you to make the most of this opportunity and enroll in your local solar program. There is no clearer way to show the world where you and your community stand on clean energy.