The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in many extraordinary measures to be taken by the federal, state, and local governments such as the “Safer at Home” order prohibiting groups of people from gathering and prohibiting some businesses from operating that pose a high risk of exposing their clientele to infections. These measures have resulted in a major impact on businesses in general and the solar industry in particular.
In Wisconsin, the construction industry, including solar, has been determined to be an “essential business” for the life-safety and infrastructure support benefits that it provides. Since this is new for everyone, the rules and guidance for how to operate in this environment are being created and amended regularly.
The leading solar and construction industry trade associations have developed excellent resources with FAQ’s on many of the important questions that contractors have such as:
Can contractors work inside buildings as well as outside?
Yes, but all essential businesses, to the greatest extent possible, are encouraged to use personal protective equipment where appropriate, use technology to avoid meeting in person when possible and engage in social distancing.
Do I need documentation to prove that I’m an “essential worker?” (ABC of Wisconsin)
Essential workers do not need documentation to prove they are essential, according to state agency staff. Police are generally not going to be stopping individuals and asking for proof. In some rare instances, construction employees have been asked to provide documentation to prove they are essential and exempt from the “safer at home” order. While not required, it may be helpful and prudent to provide your employees with a letter explaining their exemption from the emergency order.
Do I need to request any type of exemption for my business? (ABC of Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which is the government agency charged with determining whether businesses are “essential,” has indicated that if your type of business is listed (i.e. construction) there is no need to get a designation to become exempt; you are already included under exempt. If your business type is listed as essential, there is no further action required.
Am I required to have written COVID-19 response plan? (ABC of Wisconsin)
While it is not explicitly required in the state’s order, the WEDC encourages each business to develop a written COVID-19 response plan that is unique to each individual business and type of work being done.
If someone is positive with COVID-19, do I have to record in on my OSHA log? (ABC of Wisconsin)
Most likely, no. As an employer, you should determine whether there was any exposure that occurred in the work environment that caused or contributed to the test positive. As a practical matter, it is very difficult to do this and not practical to ascertain there was exposure on the worksite. OSHA would have to prove that the employee testing positive was work-related. If you have a COVID-19 case that results in a fatality or in-patient hospitalization, you would want to call OSHA. You would also likely be engaged with your local health department if this were to occur.
What steps should I be taking as a contractor employer? (ABC of Wisconsin)
Under the “General Duty” clause from OSHA, employers are to provide a safe and healthy workplace free from hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. Employers should follow the recommendations for the number of employees on a particular worksite and instruct employees on the practice of social distancing, or ensuring employees keep a six foot distance between one another while working. Employees should not share tools.
Employers should remind employees to take basic, preventative measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the workplace, including these recommendations:
• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
• avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth;
• covering sneezes or coughs with tissues, if possible, or else with a sleeve or shoulder;
• avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
• staying home when sick; and
• cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.
Employers should provide adequate supplies in the workplace for employees to follow these recommended practices.
CDC guidelines for protecting employees
ABC of Wisconsin Jobs Ambassador Rebecca Kleefisch discusses how contractors are addressing job site and employee safety and not taking lightly the declaration that construction is an “essential service” in Wisconsin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebRAC98RuAk&t=53s
The following websites are currently open to the public and you don’t have to be a member of the associations to access these resources.
Solar Energy Industry Association
Guidance for Solar Installers, EPCs and O&M Service Providers on Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin
Wisconsin Builders Association
Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin
Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee
Construction Coalition Issues Joint Statement on Jobsite Safety During COVID-19 outbreak:
“Fifteen labor and management organizations in Wisconsin committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public by issuing specific mitigation strategies to combat the COVID-19 outbreak on jobsites.”
State of Wisconsin COVID-19 Information Webpage
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
We will bring you further updates as they develop. If you have specific questions please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs at email@example.com or by cell phone at (608) 695-7004.
Amid our current health and economic challenges, the solar industry is committed to investing in local communities, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenues with clean, homegrown energy. Large scale solar projects are currently being built in Wisconsin and new projects are on the horizon, ready to contribute to Wisconsin’s energy mix! In order to ensure success, we need you to help a critical project win approval at the Public Service Commission.
The Paris Solar Energy Center is a 200 megawatt project proposed in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The project will supply homegrown, affordable, emission-free electricity to 55,000 homes. If approved, the Paris Solar Energy Center would more than double the solar generating capacity we have operating in Wisconsin today. Paris Solar would begin producing clean power by 2022. Want to learn more? Check out the application here.
Help us demonstrate Wisconsin’s enthusiastic support for this project and renewable energy.
RENEW Wisconsin will share the list of supporters with the Public Service Commission during the official comment period for this project.
Please add your name to our petition!
Contact Jim Boullion, RENEW’s Director of Government Affairs
Office: (608) 255-4044 – ext 4 • Cell: (608) 695-7004
03.24.2020 • Governor Evers Retains Exemption for Construction from Mass Gathering Restrictions in his Safer at Home order. If a business is unsure about whether or not they are exempted from this order, please contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation here.
03.23.2020 • Construction exempted from mass gathering restrictions – For now…
Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has issued Emergency Order #8, which clarifies that construction operations on private and public projects are exempt from previous orders related to bans on mass gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective at 5 p.m. on March 17, all public and private mass gatherings of more than 10 people in Wisconsin were prohibited in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 with certain exceptions. On Friday, March 20, an exemption was extended to “Construction sites and projects, including public works and remodeling projects,” according to the new emergency order. The order, signed by Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, remains in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declared by Gov. Evers or until a superseding order is issued.
However, keep an eye on the Governor’s actions in the next few days. In a series of tweets today (Monday) Governor Evers said to expect an expanded Emergency Oder called “Safer at Home”. You can see the Tweets here: https://twitter.com/GovEvers/status/1242097513785479169
03.23.2020 • WEDC is providing up to $5 million in grants to small businesses in the state to help offset losses related to coronavirus response measures.
Gov. Tony Evers has issued a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and ordering bars and restaurants to close to in-house patrons. Retailers are also expected to take a hit as consumers stay home to prevent further community spread of the virus.
To address some of the economic impact, WEDC has developed a $5 million grant program for small businesses. Individual grants are capped at $20,000 and reserved for companies with 20 employees or fewer that have borrowed from one of the state’s 23 community development financial institutions. The funds will go toward rent and payroll expenses including paid leave for workers. Companies that hope to receive grants will have to apply through participating CDFIs, and WEDC plans to announce results in the next few weeks.
CDFIs include credit unions and community development banks, as well as nonprofit loan funds and venture capital funds. Grant applications will be handled by the CDFIs rather than WEDC.
The Small Business 20/20 program was approved Tuesday by the agency’s board of directors. According to WEDC spokesman David Callender, at least 250 businesses will receive grant funding. “Based on our board’s discussions yesterday, some of the small businesses are estimating losses below $20,000, so that would mean the number of participants could be higher,” he said in an email.
WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes noted many of these “smallest of the small” companies don’t have sufficient reserves to survive prolonged revenue losses. “I know that is not satisfactory to a lot of businesses around the state; I know it’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Hopefully as we see it working, we can start to expand it as more resources become available.”
CDFIs with a minimum portfolio size of at least $4 million are being encouraged to participate in the grant program. But smaller ones can also apply jointly if they have a combined portfolio size of at least $4 million.
See the release:
See more program info:
03.23.2020 • Gov. Tony Evers is requesting loan assistance from the U.S. Small Business Association for Wisconsin companies impacted by the coronavirus fallout.
In a letter to SBA leadership, Evers noted lower consumer activity, sweeping event cancellations, mandatory closures of bars, and restrictions on other restaurants are causing direct economic harm to companies. He noted the hospitality, event hosting, and small retail business sectors are struggling the most during the outbreak.
He specifically identified: Kobussen Buses, which has corporate offices in Kaukauna; Country Kitchen Cafe in Dodgeville; Common Man Tap & Table, based in Ellsworth; Kugels Cheese Mart in Lena; and Earth Rider Brewery in Superior.
According to a federal website, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans program provides up to $2 million in financial assistance to recipients, depending on how badly the company has been affected. They’re often long-term loans with low interest levels.
WEDC chief Missy Hughes says she expects the SBA to have loan applications available for Wisconsin businesses in the next two days or so. She explained the loans are restricted to businesses with 500 employees or fewer. “We expect the SBA to be inundated with applications,” she said during a conference call today. “This is a nationwide issue. We are working with the SBA to think about what resources are available in Wisconsin, things that have already been in place.”
See the letter:
03.23.2020 • State Senate Delayed, Workforce Training Grants for Solar and Wind (AB 237) at Risk
AB 237, which would dedicate up to $1 million in training for wind and solar workers from the Department of Workforce Development ‘s First Forward Program, passed the State Assembly in February and was sent to the State Senate for final approval. A public hearing on SB 218, the companion to AB 237, was held on January 22 and was supported by utilities and numerous other groups with no one registered in opposition. The bill passed in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade on a 5-0 vote, but still needs to be voted on by the full senate.
The Senate was expected to hold its final regular floor session of the year from March 24 to 26 to vote on this and other measures, but due to the Coronavirus crisis the Senate has delayed coming back into session. The Senate will monitor the public health situation and will likely call themselves back to vote on the issues remaining from this floor period or on emergency measures related to the COVID-19 crisis when they feel it is safe to gather at the Capitol or via electronic voting if necessary.
While the bill has had good momentum and support in both houses of the legislature it appears that a small number of Senators are opposed to the bill and may be able to prevent it from passing. Contact your State Senator and ask them to support passage of AB 237, without further amendment, before the end of the 2020 legislative floor session!
Also, a reminder that the DWD has released a new round of funding for the current Fast Forward training grant program. Applications must be submitted by March 31st. The DWD is very interested in having the renewable energy industry apply for those grants this year. See my note below for more information.
03.23.2020 • Wisconsin Fast Forward Training Grant Applications Postponed Until April 30
From: DWD MB Wisconsin Fast Forward <WisconsinFastForward@dwd.wisconsin.gov>
Subject: Wisconsin Fast Forward APPLICATION DEADLINES EXTENDED to April 30, 2020
Date: March 20, 2020 at 4:47:08 PM CDT
The Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Skills Development (OSD) announces that Wisconsin Fast Forward APPLICATION DEADLINES are EXTENDED to April 30, 2020 for “Industry Sectors Worker Training Grants” and “Technical Education Equipment Grants.”
All other application submission requirements remain unchanged.
For more information and to apply to either grant program, please see the Grant Program Announcements summarizing program application requirements at http://wisconsinfastforward.com/wff_standard.htm
New Round of Fast Forward Workforce Training Grants Released
On a very related note, the DWD announced on Friday (see below) that they have $4 million of new Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) worker training grants that are available for all industries, including the solar and wind industries, to provide training for their workforces. This is the same program that our legislation mentioned above would utilize.
The DWD has a fast turn-around on this grant application cycle, so anyone interested should look into it soon. Applications must be submitted by March 31st, grantee’s will be selected on April 23rd and Contracts awarded on April 30th. Please take a look at the Industry Sector Grant Program outline for all of the details.
The WFF website has additional information and webinars on how to participate in the program on your own. Also, please let me know If you are interested in applying for the grant program. I will use that information to work with the DWD administrators, the MREA, technical schools and other potential partners about the best way for us to work together to be able to utilize the grants.
Subject: Wisconsin Fast Forward Program Now Accepting Applications
Date: February 14, 2020 at 5:44:35 PM CST
Thank you for your continued interest in the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) grant program. The Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Skills Development (OSD) is again accepting applications!
We have redesigned our grant offerings into a single grant opportunity, “Industry Sectors Worker Training Grants.” This grant program is designed to help fund development of innovative and collaborative customized worker training programs.
Key features of this grant program are:
- Grants are available to all industry sectors and to any size of company;
- Grant award amounts may range from $5,000 to $400,000;
- Cash or in-kind match equal to 50% of the grant award amount is required;
- Grantee must complete training of at least 85% of the contracted number of trainees; and
- At least 65% of trainees must be placed in positions at the placement partner(s) identified in the grant application that require the skills learned in the provided training.
For more information and to apply, please see the Grant Program Announcement summarizing program requirements.
Dear RENEW Wisconsin Members and Supporters,
First and foremost, I wish you, your families, and everyone well during this unprecedented time regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. I urge you to continue following the ever-changing guidelines coming from the Center for Disease Control and your elected officials at all levels to help keep each other safe.
With that said, last week Governor Tony Evers appointed me to be the next Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
With this change, I will be leaving RENEW Wisconsin, and my last day is today. I started with RENEW in June of 2013, and I want to thank you all for your support of the organization, and of me, since then.
It has been extremely rewarding to be the Executive Director of this organization, and I feel very proud of the organization’s growth and successes during my period here.
Heather Allen will be the organization’s Interim Executive Director starting immediately. Heather has been with the organization for nearly two years, and she will do an excellent job advancing its mission and priorities going forward. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-255-4044 extension 1.
In addition to Heather, the rest of the RENEW staff is here to support you however they can.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve this organization and all of you in this role. It has been a distinct pleasure!
RENEW Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club have released the Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit: Developing a Clean Energy Plan for Your Community.
Towns, villages, cities, and counties in Wisconsin are building the renewable energy economy. The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit recognizes this leadership in Wisconsin communities and the opportunities to expand these efforts across the state.
As part of its statewide launch, clean energy leaders, including Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, addressed members of the media and the public across the state on March 10th, 2020 to announce the release.
“The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit will help communities develop clean energy plans, which are good for the environment and also can be good for a community’s bottom line,” said State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. “I’ve seen this firsthand as the Chair of a $1.2 billion trust fund, how we’ve helped local governments finance projects such as solar panels that saved taxpayers’ money. I hope communities across the state see us as a partner in their projects to address climate change and lower energy costs.”
Local communities across Wisconsin are eager to develop and implement clean energy plans. Often, they struggle with how to begin from a technical perspective and how to engage their communities.
“Smaller communities often lack the staff to conduct clean energy assessments and make recommendations,” said Jennifer Giegerich, Government Affairs Director for Wisconsin Conservation Voters. “This toolkit is a comprehensive resource for those considering a commitment to clean energy.”
The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to energy policy options in Wisconsin. The toolkit is a resource designed to help guide communities of varying sizes and with differing resources as they consider, craft, and implement clean energy policies, and how to ensure the greatest return on potential clean energy investments.
“Local governments have heard from their residents; they want to shift to clean, renewable energy,” said Heather Allen, Program Director for RENEW Wisconsin. “But they need resources and technical support to make the transition. This toolkit offers practical strategies to help communities access affordable clean energy.”
“The Public Service Commission’s Office of Energy Innovation is committed to delivering programs that have a measurable impact on our state, this is why we’ve supported the Energy Independent Communities and will continue to support (with grants and technical assistance like this guide) communities and Tribal Nations on the road to our clean energy future,” Megan Levy, Local Energy Programs Manager & Energy Assurance Coordinator, Office of Energy Innovation, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
The Clean Energy Toolkit provides information to help local communities including:
- How to understand current state policies and regulations that impact energy use in Wisconsin
- Guidance on how to commit to clean energy
- How to build support in the community for clean energy policies
- How to establish a baseline of current energy use in the community, and how to set benchmarks to track progress toward long-range goals
- Defines equitable carbon reduction strategies that protect vulnerable communities when making the transition to clean energy, and how to ensure all impacted constituencies have a voice at the decision-making table
- Provides an overview of various financing options available to local governments to pursue clean energy
“As Wisconsinites demand action on climate change, local communities are answering those calls,” said Elizabeth Ward, Director for Sierra Club Wisconsin. “We’re glad to provide a resource for those communities as they demonstrate the leadership we’re missing at the federal level.”
The toolkit is available to download at www.wicleanenergytoolkit.com. For additional information, questions, or to request a paper copy of the toolkit, please contact Heather Allen (email@example.com)
Visit www.wicleanenergytoolkit.com to learn more.
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has opened its sixth round of donations to help Wisconsin nonprofits install solar power. Grant applications are due Wednesday, May 1, 2020 at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood.
Since 2017, the Solar for Good program has partnered with 75 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to go solar. When completed, these organizations will have installed 91 solar arrays for a total of 3.24 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power nearly 700 households.
Solar for Good is administered by RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy nonprofit organization. Through a generous donation from the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good supplies winning nonprofits with solar panels to reduce the overall cost of installing solar power.
This is Solar for Good’s sixth award cycle, and the program has assisted nonprofits of all types and sizes across Wisconsin. The grantees include 25 houses of worship, 4 environmental conservation groups, 5 animal shelters, 17 schools and education centers, 2 veterans’ groups, and 20 housing providers.
To date, 45 organizations have completed installation of 51 solar arrays. Around $488,000 worth of grants have been dispersed from the Couillard Solar Foundation, and these grants have spurred over $4 million in solar investment across Wisconsin.
By accepting a Solar for Good award, nonprofits agree to promote the environmental and economic benefits of solar power to their communities. Winning organizations educate their members about solar power and are able to showcase their projects’ benefits.
Grant applications for Solar for Good must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020. RENEW Wisconsin plans on holding an additional round of Solar for Good funding in September of 2020.
How to apply for a solar grant
Organizations can learn more and apply at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood. In order to be eligible, the organization must be a registered nonprofit organization located in Wisconsin, be in good financial standing, be ready to install solar, and agree to participate in educating community members about the benefits of solar energy. If approved for a solar panel award, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.
Applications for the Spring 2020 Solar for Good cycle must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020.
For organizations looking at solar power for the first time, technical assistance grants are available to fund a solar site assessment (up to $250) or engineering review (up to $500) for their solar array. These applications will be reviewed separately from the applications for solar panel awards and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
About Solar for Good
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy. More information can be found at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood/.
About RENEW Wisconsin
RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization which promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs that support solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles. More information on RENEW’s website: www.renewwisconsin.org.
The Public Service Commission today cleared the path for the Badger Hollow solar farm to become a utility-owned generating asset in its entirety. Approved in April 2019 and now under construction, the 300 megawatt (MW) plant in western Iowa County will soon be co-owned by a third utility, Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO). Chicago-based Invenergy is the developer for Badger Hollow and will oversee the construction process until its completion in 2021
As a result of today’s action, WEPCO and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) will jointly acquire a 150 megawatt share of this facility, which should start sending power into the grid by the end of 2020. Shares of the 300 MW solar farm will be divided equally between WEPCO, MGE, and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service.
After reviewing the applicants’ filings, the PSC determined that both MGE and WEPCO need new generating capacity in the near future, and that this 150 MW increment of Badger Hollow would be part of the least-cost expansion plan for both utilities.
RENEW submitted a letter of support for the acquisition, as did the cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Calling attention to the state’s clean energy goals as well as those of the two cities and the utilities that serve them, our comments emphasized the economic and environmental value that Badger Hollow will yield to utility customers as well as to project participants, host communities, and the state as a whole.
The PSC’s approval effectively brings the first chapter of utility-scale solar development in Wisconsin to a close. Since June 2018, the PSC has reviewed four proposals to build nearly 700 MW of in-state renewable generating capacity, and gave the green light to all of them. The following table summarizes these projects and their relationships to Wisconsin electricity providers.
||Capacity (in MW)
||Location (by county)
||WEPCO (100 MW)
MGE (100 MW)
WPS (100 MW)
||WPS (100 MW)
MGE (50 MW
|Badger State Solar
||Dairyland Power Cooperative
The next wave of solar farms will begin washing through the state regulatory review process this spring. The first one out of the gate is the Paris Solar Farm, located in Kenosha County. Invenergy’s application to build the 200 MW solar farm was submitted yesterday. Dockets have been opened for several other prospects in Wisconsin. Listed below are the solar farm projects that we anticipate will be reviewed by the PSC this year.
||Capacity (in MW)
||Location (by county)
Electric Vehicle chargers are once again eligible for a tax credit
An amendment on the Federal year-end spending bill reinstated electric vehicle charger tax credits that expired in 2017. The credits will cover 30% of the cost to install an EV charger with a maximum credit of $1,000 for individual taxpayers and $30,000 for businesses. The credit will be available through the end of 2020. To claim the credit, use IRS Form 8911.
This is a big deal! The market for electric vehicle charging is still nascent, so any incentive for EV charging is a big win. Not only will it help individuals with the upfront cost of installing EV charging at home, this tax credit will help Wisconsin businesses, from workplaces to multifamily buildings, provide EV charging in their community. We hope this will be another step in the right direction for EV adoption in Wisconsin.
If you’re interested in installing public EV charging stations, check out our factsheet to learn more about why installing EV charging is a good idea and how to do so successfully.
Electric motorcycles are also eligible for $2,500 in tax credits
The amendment also extended credits for electric motorcycles. Buyers can now receive a tax credit of 10%, or a maximum of $2,500. Good news if you’re in the market for the new all-electric Harley Livewire!
Bill Would Solidify Funding for Citizens Utility Board and Streamline Solar/Wind Permitting
RENEW Wisconsin is proud to announce our support for a legislative initiative that will support the Citizens Utility Board with a more robust level of annual funding. This bill will also streamline one element of permitting solar and wind farms of 100 megawatts or larger.
The Chairs of the Assembly Energy Committee and the Senate Utilities and Housing Committees are the co-authors of Assembly Bill 712 and Senate Bill 689, which were introduced at the request of the Public Service Commission, whose Chairperson, Rebecca Valcq, was appointed by Governor Tony Evers.
Funding for Citizens Utility Board
Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has been an important energy stakeholder since its founding in 1979. CUB’s primary role is to keep energy bills affordable for our state’s residents and small businesses.
CUB and RENEW Wisconsin have had many shared priorities over the years. Perhaps the best example is the importance of our state’s Focus on Energy program and the value of additional utility-sponsored energy conservation programs. These programs help customers save energy and save money on their utility bills, while also reducing the need to build new power plants.
As we look ahead to more coal power plant closures in Wisconsin, there is a big opportunity to strike a cost-effective balance between utility renewable energy development and customer-side solutions, including both energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy. A strong CUB will be important to those conversations.
This bill would institute a new base-funding model for CUB whereby customers of the five largest investor-owned utilities would together provide them with $900,000 in annual funding. These funds would be used by CUB to participate in most of their usual PSC activities, and they would be allowed to use outside funds to conduct other activities.
We are glad to see the PSC and Legislators find common ground to provide CUB with adequate and stable funding so they can continue to be a strong voice for ratepayers and affordable energy in Wisconsin.
Streamlining 100 MW+ Solar & Wind Farm Connections
The first two utility-scale solar farm proposals introduced in Wisconsin resulted in four “CPCN” proceedings (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity). Each of the two solar energy projects needed a very short connecting “tie line” to connect the solar farms into a nearby electric grid substation. That tie line is necessary to move the solar power to all the customers who can use it!
Current law mandates that the tie lines required their own separate CPCN evaluation. This bill would streamline that effort, so that a solar or wind farm and the short associated “tie line” can be reviewed together in one CPCN application. Since the renewable energy project would not be productive without the tie line and the tie line wouldn’t exist without the renewable energy resource, it makes sense to conduct their review in the same docket.
RENEW Wisconsin supports this effort which will improve project development efficiency.
Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved another solar farm: the Badger State Solar Farm to be located in Jefferson County, Wisconsin.
Badger State will be a 149-megawatt solar farm, and will supply electricity to Dairyland Power Cooperative. Dairyland is a wholesale energy provider for 24 rural electric cooperatives, 18 of which are located in Wisconsin. Dairyland also provides energy to an additional seventeen municipal electric utilities, ten of which are in Wisconsin.
The solar project’s developer is Ranger Power, one of RENEW Wisconsin’s Business Members.
This project marks the fourth solar farm approved by the Wisconsin PSC in the past 9 months, and the solar projects approved now total 699 megawatts. Badger State should be operational by 2021.
The project is expected to generate enough renewable energy to power over 20,000 homes, according to a Dairyland Power news release from March 2019, when their power purchase agreement was announced.
The project was given a unanimous verbal approval today, and a final order will follow in the next few weeks. This was the final decision made by retiring Commissioner Mike Huebsch, who announced his retirement earlier this month.
RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner said, “The Badger State Solar will continue Wisconsin’s steady march towards a clean, renewable energy future, and will help Dairyland Power Cooperative meet its goals to increase the sustainability and diversity of its power generation sources. Congratulations to Ranger Power and Dairyland Power Cooperative on this project approval!”
Statistics about the Badger State Solar Farm
- 149 megawatts
- Expected to produce enough electricity for about 20,000 Dairyland Power Cooperative customers each year
- Electricity Production will be about 0.4% of Wisconsin’s total 2018 electricity sales, and about 8% of Dairyland Power’s 2018 Wisconsin retail sales.
- Located on approximately 1,200 acres which is 0.5% of Jefferson County’s farmland
- The project developer expects to utilize pollinator-friendly plants under the solar panels that will help rejuvenate the soil underneath the array.
- Under Wisconsin’s energy generation shared revenue law and renewable energy incentive payment laws, the local governments where the arrays are located will receive a substantial economic boost: Jefferson County will receive approximately $348,000 annually, the Town of Jefferson $125,000 annually, and the Town of Oakland $123,000 annually.
Statistics about the 4 solar farms approved by the PSC
Badger Hollow Solar (Iowa County), Two Creeks Solar (Manitowoc & Kewaunee Counties), Point Beach Solar (Manitowoc County), and now Badger State Solar (Jefferson County) received PSC approvals between April 2019 and January 2020.
- Total of 699 megawatts of solar power production
- Expected to produce enough power for about 178,000 average Wisconsin homes’ annual energy consumption
- This amount of electricity produced would be about 2.0% of Wisconsin’s total 2018 electricity sales
- These four projects will be located on approximately 5,300 acres of land, about 0.05% of Wisconsin’s farmland. In total Wisconsin has approximately 34,700,000 acres of land.
- The hosting local governments (townships and counties) will receive $2,796,000 annually once these four projects are operational.