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Friday, May 26, 2017

Wisconsin’s First Solar Subdivision to Rise in New Berlin

For the first time ever in Wisconsin, prospective home buyers have the option of purchasing a brand-new house with a solar array sized to offset 100% of household electricity use. A trio of Wisconsin companies broke ground this week on a residential development in New Berlin that will integrate rooftop solar arrays into all 34 residences built there.

Representatives from Neumann Companies, SunVest Solar, and
Tim O'Brien Homes break ground on May 23, 2017 at Wisconsin's
first net-zero planned community.

Developed by Pewaukee-based Neumann Companies, the home sites at Red Fox Crossing, located on the southwest corner of S. Sunny Slope Road and W. Grange Ave., will be oriented to fully capture the solar energy available. Madison-based Tim O’Brien Homes will design and construct the solar-ready houses, and Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar will design and install each solar system, ranging from six to eight kilowatts.

Households that purchase a new house in Red Fox Crossing will finance the solar array through a 30-year mortgage with a 4% interest rate. As the tables below show, the power of long-term financing enables home buyers to reap substantial savings with the first monthly payment.  Indeed, the return on investment for these solar arrays will range between 10% and 20% for the duration of the mortgage.

When fully built out, Red Fox Crossing will have between 200 and 260 kilowatts of behind-the-meter solar capacity in operation. It is on a path to become Wisconsin’s first net zero (electricity) community.

Members of the SunVest Solar team at the groundbreaking.

“It has always been our dream to offer an energy independent community,” said Matt Neumann, principal of Neumann Companies. “We are excited to have all three companies involved in creating Wisconsin’s first net zero community.”

System Price
Focus on Energy Rebate
Federal Tax Credit (30%)
Out-of-Pocket Cost*

* after tax credits and rebate

Monthly Payments
Solar Production Value
Monthly Savings

* calculations based on We Energies current residential rates

According to a WTMJ-TV report, the Neumann team expects individual lots to be ready for permitting and construction sometime this fall, and the first home to be completed and generating electricity by next spring.

“Red Fox Crossing has the potential to be the turning point in building a more sustainable community and neighborhood in Wisconsin, versus focusing on only one home at a time,” said Tim O’Brien, president of Tim O’Brien Homes.

Neumann Companies' new office in Pewaukee, which also features solar panels on the roof.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Focus on Energy, Intervenor Compensation Win in State Budget

Co-Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance
Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren.

Positive steps were taken today on two issues of importance for clean energy and Wisconsin power customers!

The State Legislature's Joint Finance Committee met to set the budget of the Public Service Commission for 2017-2019, which includes both Focus on Energy and intervenor compensation funds.

Both of the wins described below gained 16-0 bipartisan votes by the Committee, which is made up of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.

First, the budget for intervenor compensation was partially restored after a 66% cut two years ago.  The budget going forward will double to $742,500 annually.  These funds enable nonprofit and citizen-based organizations to bring technical and legal expertise to proceedings at the Public Service Commission.  RENEW Wisconsin has historically used this fund to support our advocacy in utility rate cases, power plant proposals, and numerous other proceedings at the PSC that impact renewable energy.  

In addition, the Citizens Utility Board frequently uses this fund to bring expertise to cases in order to keep utility rates as low as possible for residential and small business customers across Wisconsin.  Governor Walker had proposed this restoration of funds in his budget, and the Committee adopted it.  This is great news, and we applaud Governor Walker and members of the Joint Finance Committee for adopting this provision.

Secondly, Focus on Energy's budget will remain unchanged, allowing for the most cost-effective energy efficiency and renewables projects to be funded.   The Governor has proposed to eliminate the ability for school districts to borrow above their revenue limit to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements (commonly called "Act 32" projects).  To backfill that change, the Governor proposed allocating an additional $10 million from Focus on Energy's budget for schools above what they spent last year, which would have earmarked nearly $15 million out of the total $93 million for schools alone.

Solar PV installation on Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua,
part of an energy improvement project funded under the "Act 32" school district
revenue exemption. See the full case study from SunPeak.

Concerns had been raised that schools would not be able to use that much Focus on Energy funding.  The proposed earmark could have siphoned funding away from private business installations in energy efficiency upgrades, leading to unspent dollars in the Focus on Energy program and a less cost-effective set of investments.

The Committee voted 16-0 against the Governor's proposal, leaving the Focus on Energy budgets unchanged.  This is very good news since the program returns over $3.50 for every dollar invested, and schools will still have ready access to incentives through existing programs.

This sets up an important vote later in the Joint Finance Committee schedule regarding the Governor's proposal to repeal the Act 32 school district revenue exemption.

RENEW Wisconsin was supportive of both of these successful measures through our participation in the Customers First Coalition.

The biennial budget needs the approval of both the Assembly and the Senate before being signed by the Governor.  Typically, the budget process lasts through June.

For more information on these topics and the state budget, please see RENEW's Clean Energy Summary of Governor Walker's Budget, and our recap of the 2015-17 state budget.

Finally, please support our work:  become a member of RENEW Wisconsin today!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Press Release: Madison and Middleton select winning offer for solar program

For Immediate Release

More Information:
Katie Crawley, Mayor’s Office

Katherine Klausing, RENEW Wisconsin

A team from Full Spectrum Solar installs a solar array
for a 2016 Group Buy Participant
May 9, 2017 – Madison. The Cities of Madison and Middleton have selected the winning offer from contractors who competed to serve the MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program, which helps residents easily and affordably invest in solar electric systems on their homes. The cities have selected a collaborative bid from Full Spectrum Solar and Midwest Solar Power, two solar installation companies based in Madison.

The MadiSUN Solar Group Buy program allows Madison and Middleton residents to “go solar” together.  MadiSUN used a competitive Request for Proposals process to seek offers from solar companies across the region, and dozens of companies were invited to bid. For the first time, the program selected a collaborative bid from two companies, who will offer the same price and services.
The 2017 MadiSUN solar program launched on April 24, 2017
Katherine Klausing, MadiSUN Program Manager, said “we were really pleased with the competitive offers we received.” The program evaluated bids based on pricing, work quality, customer service and the company’s qualifications.  “This is going to be a great deal for families who are interested in going solar this year. Our participants say that they feel better knowing there’s a trusted company that has been vetted by our program. By going with the group buy and benefitting from the low price we negotiate, families can save an extra 10 percent compared to what they would pay to go solar alone.”

Alarik Rosenlund, Co-Owner of Midwest Solar Power, says his company is happy to partner with the program to bring more solar energy to local residents. "This year may be a real sweet spot for anyone looking at installing solar, especially with the tax credits and rebates available," Rosenlund said. But it's not just about the economics. "This is a great way for people to take action on something really important." 

The cost of installing solar has never been lower, and households can receive a Federal Tax Credit for 30 percent of the system cost, while Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program offers up to $2,000 in additional rebates.

New solar education events were also announced, aimed at helping residents learn more about solar energy and the options available for installing solar. All events are free and open to the public. The dates, times, and locations information sessions are available at and enclosed below.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin
accepted a SolSmart Gold award
Madison earned a “gold” designation from SolSmart, the highest level of recognition from a national program under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. The “gold” designation recognizes the city’s efforts to accelerate solar development, from improving permitting and zoning for solar, to investing in financing and solar workforce training programs. The announcement took place at on Monday at the National Planning Conference in New York City.

“Madison’s commitment to continued utilization of solar energy is genuine,” said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin in a statement.  “We have our Green Power Program in which we train new workers to install solar, our goal of producing one Megawatt of Solar by 2020 and incredible partnerships like SolSmart and others.  We are on our way!”

As a SolSmart Gold designee, Madison received national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. A SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs. Madison recently became the first community in Wisconsin to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

About SolSmart
SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. Learn more at

About MadiSUN Solar Group Buy
MadiSUN works to expand solar energy adoption through a comprehensive, community-wide approach. This group purchase program is operated by RENEW Wisconsin Inc., a nonprofit organization, on behalf of the City of Madison, with support from the City of Middleton. The goal of the program is to increase solar education and adoption in the Madison and Middleton areas through a group purchase and competitive bidding process. In conjunction with this program, RENEW Wisconsin and the City of Madison will partner with Summit Credit Union to provide a special solar loan program for Madison residents. This summer, participants can learn more and sign up at

Solar Information Sessions
All events are free and open to the public. Participants should RSVP to

1. Madison College, Truax Campus
Tuesday May 16th at 6pm
Protective Services Building, Room 215,
1701 Wright St, Madison

2. Goodman Community Center
Tuesday June 6th at 6pm
Merrill Lynch Room, 149 Waubesa St, Madison

3. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Tuesday June 13th at 7pm
Peterson Hall, 5701 Raymond Rd, Madison

4. Middleton Public Library
Wednesday June 28th at 6:30 p.m.
7425 Hubbard Ave, Middleton

5. Catholic Multicultural Center
Thursday July 6th at 7pm
1862 Beld St, Madison

6. Capital Brewery & Bier Garten
Monday July 17th at 5:30pm
7734 Terrace Ave, Middleton

7. First Unitarian Society
Sunday July 30th at 12:30 p.m.
900 University Bay Dr, Madison