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Monday, January 30, 2017

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. 

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