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Monday, January 30, 2017

RENEW Wisconsin Applauds WPPI Energy & NextEra Energy Resources for Announcement of Largest Ever Wisconsin Solar Project

For immediate release                   
January 30, 2017 

More information                 
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
One of the Dairyland Power Cooperative arrays at
Taylor Electric Cooperative in Medford, WI.
The NextEra and WPPI project will be approx. 50x as large.
Today, an agreement was announced between NextEra Energy Resources, LLC and WPPI Energy to build a 100 megawatt solar energy project in northeast Wisconsin.  The project, according to the companies, would be located on land adjacent to the existing Point Beach Nuclear Plant which operates in Two Rivers, and serve more than 23,000 people with affordable, clean energy.

RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director, Tyler Huebner, said, “This will by far be the largest solar energy project built in Wisconsin yet, and it builds on the continued growth of solar energy in the state.  We congratulate both WPPI Energy and NextEra Energy Resources on the announcement of this project and their leadership in bringing more affordable, clean energy to Wisconsin.”

This project will nearly triple the amount of solar we have built in Wisconsin as of today.  According to RENEW Wisconsin estimates, 55 megawatts of solar are built or in construction today, and that is up from 25 megawatts at the end of 2015. 

“Along with Dairyland Power Coooperative, which is building 20 MW of solar projects currently, WPPI Energy is showing that solar power is a competitive resource for electricity providers in Wisconsin,” concluded Huebner.

The companies’ press release can be found at:

Media stories on the announcement:

- Op-Ed from Two Rivers City Manager Greg Buckley

- Major solar energy project slated for Wisconsin; Sun Prairie's WPPI Energy to buy the power

MGE, Middleton Celebrate Shared Solar Success with Subscribers

Middleton Mayor Kurt Sonnentag
The largest shared solar array serving a Wisconsin investor-owned utility provided the occasion for a thank-you to subscribing customers at the Middleton Operations Center January 29th. Notwithstanding overcast conditions outside, Madison Gas & Electric CEO Gary Wolter and Middleton Mayor Kurt Sonnentag beamed with  gratitude as they spoke to the customers who signed up to purchase a share of the output from the utility’s first grid-connected solar generator.

Said Mayor Sonnentag: “Today on the roof of this facility it’s great to have a “Shared Solar” partnership with MG&E that enables community members to receive the benefits of solar without having to place it on their house.”

Wolter noted that that this collaboration with the City of Middleton and its own residential customers is a key component of its Energy2030 framework. Under this framework, MGE aims to supply 30% of electric sales with renewable energy by 2030 and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 40% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Madison Gas & Electric CEO Gary Wolter
Visible from U.S. Highway 12 northbound, MGE’s 500 kilowatt (AC) array consists of 1,728 panels, and has been producing electricity since early January.  Madison-based H&H Solar designed and constructed the project, which includes inverters manufactured in Milwaukee. Also in 2016, H&H Solar designed and built a 97 kilowatt (kW) solar electric system that sits atop the Middleton Police Station. All told, City of Middleton facilities now host more than 600 kW of solar generating capacity, the most among Wisconsin municipalities.

Any residential customer could take part in MGE’s Shared Solar program, but subscription levels were capped at 50% of a customer’s usage up to a total of three kilowatts. At the same time, MGE structured the program to allow customers to enter with a relatively low up-front payment ($47.25/250 watts; $189/kW). Even though the solar energy rate starts out higher than standard electric service, it remains fixed over a 25-year period. Over time, rate increases could whittle down the price gap to the point where solar energy becomes less expensive than standard service.

In the end, it took MGE only four months to fully subscribe the output from its first shared solar array. Customers interested in future shared solar programs can put their names on a waiting list. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Summit Highlights Clean Energy Going Mainstream

Largest Ever Summit Shows Excitement, Bright Future

By Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager

On Thursday January 19, RENEW Wisconsin hosted its largest ever Renewable Energy Policy Summit, entitled “Clean Energy Goes Mainstream.”

Approximately 300 people and over 50 sponsoring organizations gathered for the sixth annual event in Madison to hear a diverse set of perspectives on the growing clean energy economy, from military leaders and farm cooperatives to utility executives and solar developers.

“This has been a great year for renewable energy in Wisconsin, with the most solar installed ever, increased attention on biogas and a new wind farm under construction. We’re really pleased that the Summit reflects that excitement,” said Executive Director Tyler Huebner.

Barbara Nick
of Dairyland Power Cooperative
Keynote speaker Barbara Nick, CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, kicked off the speakers, explaining that the cooperative’s recent large investments in wind and solar will allow it to decrease its reliance on coal. "With or without the Clean Power Plan, with or without regulation, we have a strategy that we will diversify because it's just plain good common business sense," Nick said.

On the morning panel, Amy Heart, director of public policy at SunRun, led a discussion about the economic and security benefits of mainstream clean energy. Department of Defense Engineer Gregg Herman explained what the US Army Reserve is doing to meet the DoD’s ambitious renewable energy goals, including building a 125 kilowatt solar array in Milwaukee. Larry Ward, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, spoke about his experience working with GOP lawmakers to pass a bill raising the state’s renewable portfolio standard and expanding energy efficiency. The energy independence and job creation benefits that clean energy brings align well with conservative principles, Ward said.

Organic Valley Cooperative members take
advantage of solar energy. Photo credit: Organic Valley.
Stanley Minnick, energy services manager for Organic Valley, the nation’s largest organic farm cooperative, highlighted how incorporating renewable energy into family farm practices makes them more financially sustainable. “Having solar on their farms makes it more likely that a son or daughter will be able to take over the farm from their parents,” Minnick said. He pointed out that renewable energy jobs are living-wage jobs that can really make a difference for families. “This industry has changed my life and my family’s lives.” For more information on Organic Valley’s renewable energy efforts, see our blog.

Adam Browning
of Vote Solar
Adam Browning, a national leader on solar policy and executive director of Vote Solar, gave the afternoon’s keynote address, following recognition of some of Wisconsin’s best renewable energy installations of 2016. Browning highlighted some of the bright spots in Wisconsin’s solar market, like Dairyland Power’s innovative model that allows its member cooperatives to piggyback on utility-scale solar developments as a way to offer cost-effective shared solar programs to their customers. “I wish we had that in California,” he said.

Browning pointed to state policy as a critical driver for solar growth, in addition to efforts by industry leaders such as Apple, Facebook and Google who have all committed to using 100% renewable energy. These corporate renewable energy policies will produce downstream opportunities and benefits for individual families too: “what’s good for the Google is good for the gander,” he joked.

The afternoon presentations concluded with a panel discussion featuring Laura Caspari, of SoCore Energy, Jeanne Hoffman of the City of Madison, Jeff Ripp of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, and Teran Smith of EDP Renewables. SoCore Energy is building 14 solar arrays in Wisconsin for Dairyland Power, while EDP Renewables is responsible for the new Quilt Block Wind Farm being built in southwest Wisconsin, the state's first wind farm development since 2011. Ripp highlighted Wisconsin's $20 million RFP for new biogas initiatives, while Hoffman pointed to Madison’s recent efforts on solar, as well as a new 100% renewable energy resolution.

“This past year was great for clean energy in Wisconsin, and I’m honored to help RENEW celebrate its 25th Anniversary,” Huebner said. “I’m optimistic about what 2017 holds.”

For more information on the event, we invite you to view press coverage from:

Channel 3000: Renewable Energy Conference Focuses on Working with Agriculture

Wisconsin Public Radio: A Wisconsin Utility Executive Pledges Less Reliance on Coal

WisBusiness: Wisconsin Must Plan for Carbon-Restricted Future, Industry Experts Say

Wisconsin Public Radio: A Conservative Touts Renewable Energy

Midwest Energy News: Adam Browning Q+A - Bright Spots and Opportunities for Solar in Wisconsin

Monday, January 16, 2017

2016’s Standout Renewable Energy Projects to Receive Recognition This Week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 
January 16, 2017

More information                   
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1

The biggest and best renewable electric installations in 2016 are set to be recognized at RENEW Wisconsin's annual Renewable Energy Summit this Thursday, January 19th in Madison.  The recognition ceremony will take place at 12:45 PM, during lunch.  The Summit will be held at the Monona Terrace in Madison; registration starts at 8:00 AM and the program runs from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM.

As strong a year as 2015 was for Wisconsin solar installers, 2016 shattered records for total capacity added, with several electric providers, led by La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and many of its member cooperatives, generating most of the momentum.  Between utility-scale projects on the one end to residential rooftop installations on the other, Wisconsin’s solar output will more than double the previous year’s totals.

Indeed, since last year’s Summit, construction started on more than 30 megawatts of solar panel installations, which will generate enough electricity to supply about 5,000 Wisconsin homes’ annual electricity usage.

The recognition will be bestowed across three categories:

Utility solar. In 2016 Dairyland Power Cooperative entered into contracts to purchase the output from 14 solar arrays under construction in Wisconsin, with a combined capacity of nearly 19 megawatts. On top of the capacity serving Dairyland, many member cooperatives agreed to additional panels to supply their shared solar programs. All told, Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives committed to more than 21 megawatts of solar last year.

Two Madison-based investor-owned utilities, Alliant Energy and Madison Gas & Electric, brought three arrays online in 2016. When it was energized, Alliant’s solar array in the Town of Beloit became the largest solar-powered generator in Wisconsin. Madison Gas & Electric’s shared solar project came about through an innovative partnership with the City of Middleton, whose rooftops now holds more than 600 kW of solar, as the City police station added an array in addition to the larger MG&E Shared Solar project.

Landmark and innovative initiatives.  National corporations, state-based businesses, Wisconsin communities, and local activists continued their progress in embracing solar energy to advance public policy goals and/or enhance their business profile. In 2016, several noteworthy initiatives and collaborations were launched that married clean electricity productions with other objectives such as economic competitiveness, job training, and community-building.

Residential solar group purchase programs.  Cities and nonprofit organizations collaborated to launch four community-based solar group purchase programs, spanning from Eau Claire in the northwest to Racine in the southeast.  Solar group purchase programs are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of installing solar panels on individual houses, while sharing the benefits of increased marketing and community involvement. By the end of 2016, these four programs resulted in 139 households committing to install more than 600 kW of solar on their properties, far outpacing previous years’ totals.

"Wisconsin solar energy saw its best year ever in 2016, with the projects installed and under construction more than doubling the state’s total production,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  “But we can’t stop here, because our neighboring states are growing even faster than us. In 2017, we will also see the welcome development of wind energy and biogas investments come back to Wisconsin.  Increasing our renewable energy investments and usage will help build a stronger, cleaner economy for Wisconsin.”

For more information on the 2017 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit