On Sunday, September 26, RENEW Wisconsin hosted the 8th Annual “Ride with RENEW” bike ride fundraiser in Madison and Fitchburg, WI.

We started the day at William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park in Madison with over 40 determined bike riders!  The 18-mile route featured the Capital City Trail and the Badger State Trail as riders enjoyed a sunny, windy day pedaling to our renewable energy tour stops.

Our first stop of the tour was Forest Edge Elementary School, the first zero net energy school in Wisconsin. The new $40 million school is energy-efficient, all-electric with geothermal heating and cooling and battery storage, and generates all its energy needs on-site from renewable energy. The 646 kW DC rooftop solar system with bifacial panels will save $82,000 annually in energy costs.

Next, we stopped at Promega, a major manufacturer of products for biotechnology and molecular biology that is leading the way in incorporating renewable energy for its own use. More than 1,300 kW of solar capacity has been installed around their Fitchburg campus, enabling Promega to slash its electricity consumption by 38% in 2020.  At the same time, ground source heat pumps and solar water heaters allow the campus to cut back further on its fossil fuel use. To supplement their investments in energy efficiency and onsite renewables, Promega purchases power from a 2-megawatt share in the 20 MW O’Brien Solar Farm three miles away. Through these initiatives, Promega derives more than 20% of its total energy use from renewable energy sources.

Then it was a short bike ride to Fitchburg City Hall. In the last five years, the City has installed nearly 600 kW of solar capacity on City Hall, Public Library, two fire stations, and a public works maintenance facility. Following its adoption of a 100% renewable energy resolution in 2019, Fitchburg committed to purchasing a portion of O’Brien Solar Farm’s output. The combination of these initiatives will allow the City to meet approximately 40% of its operational needs with solar power.

Riders then biked to O’Brien Solar Fields, Dane County’s largest solar farm to date. This 20-megawatt solar array in Fitchburg covers the former O’Brien Dairy Farm with 60,000 solar panels. The project, developed by EDF Renewables and owned and operated by Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), supplies locally generated solar energy to local businesses, municipalities, and public institutions under MGE’s innovative Renewable Energy Rider (RER). Partners on this project include the City of Fitchburg, Placon, Promega Corporation, Tribe 9 Foods, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Willy Street Co-op, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

The next stop on our tour was All Saints Lutheran. Located along Highway PD near McKee Farms Park, All Saints Lutheran installed 56 bifacial solar panels in April 2021, with help from a Solar for Good grant. In addition to hosting church services for their own congregation, All Saints shares its space with the Spanish-speaking congregation of Iglesia Ebenezer Asambleas De Dios. All Saints took this step into solar for the long-term cost savings, but also because they take seriously the call to care for creation as a part of being good stewards of all God has given them. The 20.7 kW array is expected to supply 92% of the facility’s annual electric use.

Lastly, we stopped at one of the solar shelters near the Lussier Family Heritage Center where riders heard from Kathy Kuntz, from the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change. With more than 460 panels on four buildings providing renewable electricity to campers and day-use visitors, William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park and Lussier Family Heritage Center represent Dane County’s first solar-powered park and campground. This year Staff Electric completed and energized a 66 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system at the park’s campground. This system includes rooftop arrays on both the shower building and the park shelter. A separate solar system, also installed by Staff Electric, consists of a rooftop array atop the Lussier Family Heritage Center as well as panels on a nearby park shelter along the Capital City Trail. This 76 kW installation will provide more than 90% of the power consumed by the Lussier Center. An electric vehicle charging station is also available at the Lussier Center. As of today, Dane County owns more solar systems than any other county in Wisconsin—with a combined capacity of more than 800 kW at 16 county facilities. Coupled with the 9 MW solar array at the Dane County Airport (which is a partnership with MGE), Dane County gets 45% of the electricity used for county facilities from renewable energy sources.

We ended the ride back at William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park with a static electric vehicle display, pizza from Glass Nickel, beer from Wisconsin Brewing Company, and music by the Forward! Marching Band. WKOW Channel 27 stopped by our social hour and featured our riders on the evening’s local news. 

This year’s ride highlighted a diverse application of renewable energy, particularly solar, in Dane County. Riders got a first-hand look at a solar farm, a solar-powered campground, a net-zero school, and solar on commercial, faith, and municipality buildings, all in a less than a 20-mile radius!
Thank you again to all of our sponsors, shown below, our bike riders, and everyone who donated to support our riders and helped us raise over $14,000 to continue our education, advocacy, and collaboration to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin!