The Two Creeks Solar Park, located in Manitowoc County, was energized last week, becoming the state’s largest generating station powered by the sun. Developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy, Two Creeks is jointly owned by two Wisconsin electric utilities: Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). WPS owns and operates a 100 megawatt (MW) share of the 150 MW power plant, while MGE has the remaining 50 MW share.
Located next to the Point Beach Nuclear Plant, Two Creeks effectively doubles the amount of solar generating capacity in Wisconsin to 300 MW, and will, over the next six months, produce more electricity than the combined output from all other existing solar systems in Wisconsin. Expected to produce more than 300,000,000 megawatt-hours a year, Two Creeks will generate about one-half of one percent of the state’s overall supply of electricity, which is the equivalent of what 33,000 residences consume annually.
Along with the 300 MW Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County, Two Creeks received approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) in April 2019. These two were the pioneering solar farm proposals that navigated through the PSC’s power plant siting process and won approval from the agency. At the same meeting, the PSC granted a joint request from WPS and MGE to acquire Two Creeks.
Since then, the PSC has given the green light to two more solar farms totaling 249 MW in capacity, including NextEra Energy’s 100 MW Point Beach Solar Farm next door to Two Creeks. Point Beach Solar is under construction and should be completed in the fall of 2021.
Construction work on Two Creeks commenced on August 2019, kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony that drew Gov. Tony Evers and the two utility ceos. Governor Evers’ appearance came less than a week after he issued Executive Order 38, articulating a goal of “ensuring all electricity consumed within the State of Wisconsin is 100% carbon-free by 2050.”
Building Two Creeks was no small undertaking. It involved punching thousands of posts into the ground to support horizontal tracking systems spreading across 800 acres of relatively flat terrain. Mounted on these rotating poles are more than 500,000 panels that follow the sun as it crosses the sky going east to west. Between the first rays of sunlight and the last ones before sunset, these panels soak in the sunshine and convert it to electricity.
A plant like Two Creeks will begin displacing higher-cost power at the moment it is energized, and these savings will grow significantly over the course of its 30-to-50-year life. True, the utilities will need to recover the cost of building the solar farm, somewhere in the vicinity of $195 million. But the savings utilities expect to reap from avoided fossil fuel purchases and pollution control expenditures will more than outweigh their investment in a zero-carbon generation source. Seen in this light, large-scale solar is indisputably the most cost-effective supply option that an electric utility can pursue going forward.
The benefits from Two Creeks extend beyond ratepayer savings. Manitowoc County and the Town of Two Creeks, the jurisdictions hosting the solar farm, expect to reap a combined $600,000 in local aids each year while the project remains in service. That number grows to $18,000,000 over the course of 30 years, which is the projected minimum lifespan of Two Creeks.
Solar is a noncombustible energy resource that does not emit any gaseous emissions or particulates when converted to electricity. Deploying solar at the scale of Two Creeks will capture significant public health and air quality benefits by avoiding emissions that are associated with conventional fossil generation plants. In another PSC proceeding involving a 15O MW solar farm in eastern Wisconsin, the developer anticipates annual emissions reductions in the following categories of pollutants: (1) nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 195,000 pounds; (2) methane (CH4) by 20,000 pounds; (3) nitrous oxide (N2O) by 5,000 pounds; and (4) carbon dioxide (CO2) by 405 million pounds.
Decarbonizing the state’s fleet of power plants is also a job creation strategy. The PSC estimates that somewhere between 200 and 300 jobs were created during the project’s construction window. It’s quite likely that many of the workers involved in the building of Two Creeks are now hard at work constructing the adjoining Point Beach solar farm.
In the annals of Wisconsin electric utility history, Two Creeks represents a noteworthy milestone, as the first solar farm to clear the PSC’s power plant review process and become a valuable addition to the state’s portfolio of power plants. And it took only 18+ months from the crossing of the regulatory finish line for Two Creeks to start sending power into the grid.
Two Creeks can also be viewed as the lead entry in a parade of large solar farms seeking to cross the same regulatory finish line and proceed to construction and completion. Looking out over the next 12 months, the PSC will review and make decisions on six solar farm applications totaling 1,150 MW (see table below).
|Anticipated decision date
Within that same 12-month window, we expect two more PSC-approved solar farms—Badger Hollow I (150 MW) and Point Beach (100 MW) to cross the finish line and begin generating electricity.
What we’re seeing here is the emergence of a new resource paradigm that is ushering in a major wave of public works construction across the state. As this transition unfolds, solar power will become widely recognized as a linchpin in the state’s economy, extending through this decade and beyond.
Update: The Request for Proposals (RFP) pursuant to the 2020 grant cycle of the Energy Innovation Grant Program has been posted on the Public Service Commission’s web site. You can access the RFP here. The due date for grant submissions is January 22, 2021.
October 19, 2020
The Public Service Commission approved $7 million in funding that will be awarded through the 2020 round of the Energy Innovation Grant Program (EIGP). The EIGP awards financial assistance that supports the Office of Energy Innovation’s mission relating to energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, planning and resilience. In the previous round in 2018, the EIGP distributed nearly $5 million to more than 100 recipients. EIGP presently has a cash balance of more than $26 million.
The final order (PSC REF# 398392) was issued on October 16th, setting forth elements including (1) eligibility criteria; (2) eligible activities; (3) program budget; (4) procedures for tracking and reporting; and (5) development of the Request for Proposals (RFP).
The most important decisions rendered by the Commission are itemized below, interspersed with tables providing greater granularity on the program design and schedule.
- The following entities are eligible to seek funds through this program: manufacturers of all sizes; and cities, villages, towns, counties, K-12 school districts, tribes, municipal water and wastewater utilities, municipal electric utilities, municipal natural gas utilities, University of Wisconsin System campuses and facilities, Wisconsin Technical College System, public or nonprofit hospitals, and 501(3)(c) nonprofits (collectively MUSH Market).
- A budget of $7 million was authorized for the upcoming round. This represents an increase of $2 million from the previous round. The allocations for each of the four program activities are listed below.
- Projects involving all statutorily defined renewable energy resources are eligible for funding.
- The additional $2 million were allocated to Activities 1 and 2.
|Optional Available Funds Per Activity for 2020 Program Year
||Maximum grant request
||Available funds per activity
|1. Renewable Energy + Energy Storage
||22% up to $250,000
(solar PV only)
|$500,000 (other RE)
|$250,000 (energy storage system)
|$500,000 (solar + storage)
|$750,000 (other RE + storage)
|2. Energy Efficiency + Demand Response
|3. Electric + RNG Vehicles + Infrastructure
|4. Comprehensive Energy Planning
The Commission also approved a timeline for the upcoming round of funding, the milestones of which appear in the table below.
|Tentative 2020 Energy Innovation Grant Program Year Timeline
||PSC consideration of 2020 Grant Program Design – final order issued
||Final order issued; Circulate RFP 90-day application period
||Review and score proposals
||2020 EIGP Award recommendations considered; announce awards
||Contract negotiations; sign award agreements
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has awarded over $190,000 in cash grants and materials to Wisconsin nonprofits for installing on-site solar energy systems. Seventeen organizations will install 719 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity leading to nearly $1.4 million in renewable energy investments in Wisconsin.
The following organizations have been offered Fall 2020 Solar for Good grants to install new solar electric systems:
All Saints Lutheran Church, house of worship, Fitchburg.
Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, after-school youth programming, Madison.
Community Clothes Closet, free clothing provider, Menasha.
Couleecap Inc, poverty alleviation, Westby.
Ezekiel Lutheran Church, house of worship, River Falls.
Friends of Sauk County Fairgrounds, historic preservation, Baraboo.
Grace Evangelical Free Church, house of worship, Viroqua.
Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, affordable housing provider, Madison.
Habitat for Humanity Restore, affordable housing support, Beaver Dam.
Just One More Ministry, food pantry, Glendale.
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Restore, affordable housing support, Greenfield.
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, house of worship, Madison.
The BRICK Ministries, poverty alleviation and food pantry, Ashland.
Walnut Way Conservation Corps, community conservation organization, Milwaukee.
Yerkes Future Foundation, education and historic preservation, Williams Bay.
Two organizations have asked to remain anonymous at this time.
This round of Solar for Good grants features a diverse group of organizations from across Wisconsin. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County will install over 250 panels at their Madison-based facility and plan to demonstrate the benefits of solar energy to the young people they serve. An 11-kilowatt array will be installed at the BRICK Ministries in Ashland with the help of donated solar panels from One Energy Renewables, a large-scale solar developer. And a 60-kilowatt array is planned at the famous Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, home of the world’s largest refracting telescope used for astronomical research.
“The grant and the installation of solar panels underscores the ongoing value of Yerkes Observatory as a place for scientific discovery and education,” stated Dianna Colman of Yerkes Future Foundation. “Students and visitors will experience firsthand the impact of solar power…even on a building dating back to 1897.”
In addition to the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good’s founding funder, this cycle of grants also received backing from the Array it Forward initiative at First Unitarian Society in Madison. The First Unitarian Society won a Solar for Good grant in 2018 and wanted to share the benefits they received from their solar array with other nonprofits across Wisconsin. Array it Forward is made possible through donations solicited from their congregation and the community.
“Solar for Good shares our values and priorities for stabilizing our climate and speeding our transition to renewable energy,” said Carol Phelps, a contributing donor to Array it Forward. “This will make life better for the children of the world…when people unite to tackle climate change, there is great hope for the future.”
The 17 nonprofit organizations are a part of Solar for Good’s 7th round of funding. Since its inception in 2017, Solar for Good has offered solar grants to 96 Wisconsin-based nonprofits.
When each of the solar projects are energized, these nonprofits will have added over 4 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to Wisconsin’s electric mix, enough to power approximately 900 homes. Solar for Good projects will represent a total of $9.2 million of private investments in Wisconsin renewable energy over the past three years.
About Solar for Good RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits and houses of worship in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation and Array it Forward, RENEW Wisconsin awards grants and solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy.
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.
Now entering its 20th year of operation, Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program is widely recognized as a model public benefits program delivering energy savings to utility customers. This statewide program, funded entirely through utility bills, provides incentives and other services to help households, businesses, and nonprofits invest in energy efficiency measures and supply themselves with clean energy.
Take Capital Brewery as an example. With financial support from Focus on Energy, the Middleton brewery and beer garden installed in 2014 a high efficiency heat recovery system with controls and a 13 kilowatt (kW) solar electric system on its roof. Thanks to these investments, Capital Brewery saves more than $4,500 each year on its heating and electricity bills.
Capital Brewing’s Wisconsin peers are also capturing the energy value of sunshine. Breweries such as Central Waters, Ale Asylum, New Glarus, Bare Bones, and Lakefront have parlayed incentives from Focus on Energy into investments in onsite solar power. In so doing, they demonstrate that incorporating sustainability and carbon reduction into their operations is good business and can often be a competitive advantage.
According to its web site, Focus on Energy has enabled millions of ratepayers to save $730 million in avoided energy costs since the program’s inception. Moreover, it has been a consistently powerful economic engine for the state of Wisconsin, yielding between $4 and $5 in economic and avoided pollution benefits for every $1 spent by the program.
But to fully appreciate Focus on Energy’s reach and impact, it’s worth reading through the dozens of energy efficiency and clean energy success stories made possible by program incentives. As these testimonials and case studies make clear, Focus offerings have something of value for every electric customer in Wisconsin, no matter how large or small they may be.
On the renewable energy side, virtually every solar photovoltaic (PV) system powering Wisconsin residences and small businesses today received a rebate from this unique, ratepayer-funded program. Nowadays, with solar installation prices down to about a quarter of where they were 10 years ago, Focus on Energy can award rebates to many more customers than in the past. Notwithstanding the ongoing pandemic, 2020 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year in the residential solar market, fueled by $2.3 million in incentives from Focus on Energy.
The popularity of its solar incentives is putting a strain on Focus on Energy’s budget going into 2021. Under its current four-year plan, the program reserves $5.5 million each year for all qualifying renewable energy investments, out of an annual budget overall of about $95 million. Increasing its overall budget would require approval from state legislators. Absent such action, Focus on Energy has little choice but to pare residential rebate levels down to $500 per installation going forward.
Electric providers throughout Wisconsin contribute 1.2% of their gross revenues into Focus on Energy. Though they are not required to participate, all of the municipal utilities and nearly half of the electric cooperatives in Wisconsin also fund the program, to the tune of $8 a year per meter.
As the overseer of Focus on Energy, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is very mindful of the demands placed on the program, and its crucial contribution to reducing fossil energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, PSC Chair Rebecca Valcq is asking Governor Evers to put an additional $100 million into the program, starting in July 2021. According to the PSC, the increase would cost residential households less than a $1/month.
“These programs reduce emissions,” Valcq said. “They reduce the need to go out and look at building generation and transmission projects. These programs create jobs.”
Signed into law by Governor Tommy Thompson back in 1999, Focus on Energy has enjoyed strong bipartisan support throughout its history. Considering how broadly its benefits have been spread throughout the state, increasing the program’s budget should be something both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.
Michael Vickerman is policy director of RENEW Wisconsin
National Drive Electric Week, celebrated from September 26 to October 4, is a 9-day long event raising awareness about the environmental and social benefits of driving all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars. In its tenth annual commemoration, National Drive Electric Week events will include webinars ranging from topics on how to get started with an electric vehicle (EV) to making ownership more inclusive.
RENEW Wisconsin, in partnership with Wisconsin Clean Cities, will be hosting the fourth and final webinar of our Virtual Electric Series on September 30 from 1:00PM to 2:00PM. The Local Utilities & Infrastructure Webinar will feature utility experts as they talk about incentives and programs offered to help Wisconsinites drive electric.
Why Drive Electric?
From 2017 to 2018, EV sales grew 80% across the nation, with a total of 1.18 million EVs on the road by the end of March 2019. Wisconsinites drive electric vehicles for many reasons, some cite the safety and speed and others love the efficiency and environmental benefits of EVs.
For Madison resident Matthew Ploeger, driving an EV means having the perfect car for a road trip. Ploeger, who owns both a Tesla Model S and a plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, said he particularly enjoys the safety features of his Tesla, as well as the smooth and quick acceleration.
“I love being able to drive the Tesla … and make use of the supercharger network, which makes a road trip fantastic,” Ploeger said. “We can go for 180 to 200 miles, stop for 25 to 30 minutes to charge, stretch our legs, get something to drink, and then we’re back on the road in 30 minutes with 80% charge and we go another 175 to 190 miles.”
Echoing that sentiment, Bayfield resident Roger Aiken enjoys driving his roomy all-electric Chevy Bolt, which he says is an ideal way of travelling with his two labradors and his wife, Susan. Pre-COVID, he drove 20,000 miles a year, getting 107 electric miles per gallon.
Living in a hilly neighborhood, Aiken has found that his EV drives more efficiently than a gas powered car, as his car generates electricity as it’s going downhill, so that he can use that energy for driving uphill.
EVs are efficient, especially when powered by the sun
Madisonite David Brow says his all-electric Tesla Model S is easy to maintain and fun to drive. He and his wife chose to drive electric for the environmental benefits. Brow has solar panels on his home, which means his car is powered by the sun! Solar powered EVs minimize emissions and create a cheap way to produce energy. Even without access to renewable energy, EVs don’t produce any tailpipe emissions, limiting the amount of smog-forming pollutants in the air and having a positive effect on human health.
Similarly, Lee Gasper-Galvin of Sun Prairie cites her vehicle’s efficiency as a primary reason why she chose to drive electric.
“I drive electric because electric vehicles are much more efficient than internal combustion engine vehicles,” Gasper-Galvin said. “For example, this Tesla Model 3 has a 95% efficient electric motor, as compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle, which is only 20-30% efficient.”
Other ways to ride
Choosing to drive a car is not the only way to drive electric.
Jim Holmes, a Marshall resident, rides an electric motorcycle and an electric lawnmower. He said his electric motorcycle is his preferred way to ride, as it is low-maintenance and can go 90 miles per one full charge.
Holmes chose to invest in an electric lawnmower not only because of the convenience of not having to get gas, but also because of the added environmental benefit.
Whatever you choose to drive, EVs have a plethora of individual and environmental benefits, such as savings on fuel and maintenance costs, and reduced emissions and cleaner air. EVs are becoming increasingly popular, and driving electric has never been easier. EVs are becoming increasingly popular, and driving electric has never been easier. For more information, visit renewwisconsin.org/electric-vehicles.
UPDATE: Racine is set to get 2 additional new electric buses for a total of 8! Racine is leading the pack in investing in electric buses. The second round of Wisconsin’s Volkswagen Mitigation Program Transit Capital Assistance Grants were announced on September 9, 2020. This round, totaling $18 million, was awarded to Beloit, Wausau, Sheboygan, Madison, Eau Claire, Racine, Green Bay, and La Crosse. The funding will allow those cities to purchase a combined 34 transit buses.
Racine is again the only city that has opted for electric buses, getting funding for 2 more electric buses and the infrastructure to re-charge them. With this additional funding, Racine will be able to purchase 8 all-electric transit buses with Volkswagen Mitigation Program funding.
Between the first and second rounds of the Transit Capital Assistance grants, the Volkswagen Settlement Program has spent $50 million to bolster the State’s public transit systems. The total funding available to Wisconsin through the Volkswagen Settlement is $67.2 million, which leaves about $17 million yet to be awarded.
Published December 14, 2018
Racine is set to get 6 new electric buses!
The RENEW Wisconsin Volkswagen Settlement Blog reviews the Volkswagen Settlement and how Wisconsin allocated two-thirds of our settlement funding. A large portion of the funding is going to the Transit Capital Assistance Program for cities and counties to replace aging diesel buses.
Transit Capital Assistance Grant Recipients
The grant recipients have been announced! $32 million of settlement funding is set to replace a total of 58 polluting diesel buses in 9 cities and 1 county.
At least 6 of those buses will be electric, all in Racine. Appleton, Eau Caire, Green Bay, Janesville, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee County, Sheboygan, and Wausau are also award recipients.
Per the award announcement, Racine is set to receive $6.2 million for the 6 buses and overnight charging stations. Racine also wanted to install a fast charger toward the end of the route out to the “Wisconn Valley.” The awards aren’t yet final, giving parties time to negotiate grant terms.
Racine’s Electric Buses
Racine’s application states, “the new buses will attract commuters by providing a quiet, high tech experience commensurate with the new economic opportunities and technologies in the service area.” Of course, by “new economic opportunities and technologies,” they are referring to Foxconn. Which makes sense – a key aspect of the competitive grant program was to connect employees to employers. Foxconn voiced their support by signing on to Racine’s application.
It will likely be more than a year before the new buses are operating. Once they are in operation, the new electric buses will replace the oldest, most polluting, diesel buses in Racine’s fleet.
Benefits of Electric Buses
No matter where they operate, electric buses are a win for all stakeholders.
- There’s no diesel smell and no loud engine. Electric buses are more comfortable to ride in!
- Electric buses are cheaper to operate. Lower fuel costs and less maintenance means extremely reduced costs to operate.
- Fewer emissions mean a cleaner community for everyone. Whether you are a bus rider or not, everyone will benefit from the reduced emissions from switching to electric buses.
- Clean, electric buses can be powered by renewable energy. We can create the energy to run our transit right here in Wisconsin instead of sending billions of dollars out of state for fossil fuels.
I’m excited to see more electric buses being added to transit fleets in Wisconsin. They truly are a win for all transportation stakeholders – the riders, owners, and community at large.
In June, the Public Service Commission requested public comments on the latest iteration of its Strategic Energy Assessment (SEA), a study that profiles the state’s electric power industry and surveys how the economic and regulatory landscape will likely evolve over the next six years. The PSC is required by law to update its assessment every two years. The PSC gave the public until August 14th to file comments to the draft study.
In contrast to previous renditions of this process, which were quiet affairs, this year’s draft assessment (Docket 5-ES-110) elicited a veritable torrent of comments from the public. This unprecedented volume of responses reflects a broadening understanding that electric providers are making significant changes to their resource mix to reduce carbon emissions, and that this clean energy transition must continue. With the PSC approving a significant quantity of zero-emission generation in other proceedings, it is heartening to see so many individuals and organizations encouraging the PSC to do more of the same.
Unfortunately, the draft SEA shies away from acknowledging the market realities and environmental constraints that are, today, driving utility procurement decisions quite clearly toward clean energy. This did not go unnoticed. As RENEW noted in its comments, the draft SEA is distinguished more by what is absent from the discussion than by the contents within it.
Chief among the blind spots is the document’s complete silence on climate science and the Governor’s Executive Orders #38 and #52, which enumerated a number of initiatives and goals to put the state on a zero-carbon pathway. Issued in August 2019, Executive Order #38 created a new office within state government, the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy (OSCE). Over the last nine months, OSCE has been working closely with the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, assisting this body in formulating strategies for tackling the effects of climate change in Wisconsin.
OSCE director Maria Redmond submitted comments consisting of recommendations for improving the usefulness and educational value of the SEA.
While reporting on what the utility providers are doing, the PSCW should capitalize on the opportunity to integrate several multi-sector, local, state, and regional efforts to reduce energy consumption, transition to clean energy. The SEA compliments the work of the OSCE and could be a useful tool to measure and verify progress towards meeting our carbon reduction goals. The SEA could also be used to directly address and report on Wisconsin’s progress on reducing the impacts of climate change. As currently written, the assessment does not analyze the overall risks (business as usual) versus the benefits of the transition to a clean energy economy or addressing climate change.
RENEW struck a similar theme in its concluding remarks.
We encourage Commission staff to engage the newly created Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy in a productive way, and find other sources of information beyond the utility responses to data requests. Certainly, RENEW would, if asked, gladly assist Commission staff in the gathering of relevant information prior to the document-drafting process. As noted in the introduction, the Strategic Energy Assessment is the closest thing in the state to a public planning process involving the state’s electric providers. It’s crucially important that this and future iterations of the SEA weave in policy threads that will illuminate pathways to achieving the clean energy goals and objectives that numerous public and private entities in Wisconsin have adopted.
The breadth and volume of comments submitted to the PSC is directly attributable to RENEW’s work to engage stakeholders and the public on the current SEA, highlighted by a webinar organized and led by RENEW policy director Michael Vickerman. The webinar on July 14 presented a primer on the draft SEA, and provided suggested points that could be raised in comments. More than 50 individuals representing numerous organizations in Wisconsin and beyond registered for the webinar. The slide deck prepared for the webinar can be found here.
In 2018, a mere two weeks elapsed between the comment filing deadline and the issuance of the final SEA. This time around, we expect more significant re-writes and additions to the draft.
RENEW thanks the organizations and individuals who weighed in with comments. We are hopeful that the public response to the draft SEA will materialize into needed improvements in the final document.
RENEW Wisconsin has named Heather Allen as Executive Director. Ms. Allen was hired as RENEW’s Program Director in July 2018 and has been acting as Interim Executive Director since March, when RENEW’s prior Executive Director, Tyler Huebner, was appointed by Governor Tony Evers to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
Prior to joining RENEW Wisconsin, Ms. Allen worked as the Legislative Analyst for the City of Madison’s Common Council. She brings to RENEW a cumulative 15 years of experience developing policies and programs at the Clean Lakes Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the City of Madison.
“With Heather at the helm, RENEW is well-positioned to steer Wisconsin’s clean energy transition on a path towards a broader distribution of its benefits,” said Michael Vickerman, Policy Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “As state and local governments, schools, businesses, farmers, tribes, affinity groups, and individuals become more invested in clean energy, RENEW will be working with them to realize a future in which renewable energy is available and accessible for anyone who desires it.”
“Heather is an ally for solar installers and customers across Wisconsin,” Burke O’Neal at Full Spectrum Solar added. “She is dedicated to improving access to renewable energy for homeowners, businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations.”
“I’m thrilled to congratulate Heather Allen on becoming Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin,” said Deb Erwin, Manager, Regulatory Policy, Xcel Energy. “As a national leader in the clean energy transition, Xcel Energy knows the importance of working together with partners to make our vision a reality. We look forward to working with Heather to bring all the benefits of the clean energy transition to Wisconsin.”
Eric Udelhofen, RENEW Wisconsin Board of Directors Chair and Project Developer at OneEnergy Renewables, a RENEW business member added, “The RENEW Board is thrilled that Heather Allen has accepted the offer to become our new Executive Director, and is very excited to continue working together with Heather to advance RENEW’s mission of advancing renewable energy in Wisconsin. Heather is a fierce advocate for our issues and will be able to step in and be an effective advocate and leader from day one.”
Ms. Allen said, “As we look ahead to the next five years, there is so much opportunity for clean energy. Price drops in wind and solar and public interest in generating clean emission-free electricity have paved the way for growth and innovation in new technologies. Electric vehicles, batteries, and demand response solutions are reshaping the energy landscape to allow for a more responsive, sustainable, and affordable grid.”
“We are committed to increasing equitable access to the benefits of renewable energy so that all Wisconsinites have a clear stake in our energy system. I envision a future in which Wisconsin becomes a renewable energy leader and a model for other states.” She added, “This is the moment to seize the opportunity to shift towards renewable energy, keep billions of dollars in Wisconsin, and reinvest in our local economies.”
Ms. Allen is the producer and host of Wisconsin Energy Broadcast (WEB) on WORT 89.9 FM, a monthly broadcast, where she discusses clean technology and renewable energy in the Midwest.
Ms. Allen received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Aspects of Conservation and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy from Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Other advocates and industry professionals also expressed their congratulations on Ms. Allen’s appointment:
It is always a pleasure to work with Heather. Her gift is being able to draw in people with many different perspectives and experiences. She continues to expand the coalition of allies who can advocate effectively for clean energy in Wisconsin.
Jennifer Giegerich, Government Affairs Director, Wisconsin Conservation Voters
Heather Allen’s understanding of the multifaceted challenge of climate change mitigation clearly drives her dedication to achieve climate justice. As a physician advocating for the health of my patients via equitable climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions, I have found Heather’s expert understanding of large-scale renewable infrastructure development to be invaluable. Heather has also always been a pleasure to work with, demonstrating unparalleled passion, prompt and professional communication and collaboration skills, and an enduring work ethic. I am thrilled to hear of her permanent appointment as Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.
Andrew Lewandowski, Pediatrician, GHC-SCW, Steering Committee Member, Wisconsin Environmental Health Network
Heather has been a delight to work with as Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light has collaborated with RENEW through her to bring a message of Good News to people of faith who care about sustainable energy.
John Helt, Former Board President, WI IP&L
I’ve been fortunate to work with Heather Allen for more than four years now and I know that she’ll be an outstanding Executive Director for RENEW. Heather is smart, diligent, responsible, hardworking, a great communicator, and has so much integrity! Congrats to RENEW on a great hire and a bright future.
Keith Reopelle, Former Director of Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change
Excellent choice, Renew Wisconsin continues Forward in very capable dedicated hands! Congratulations Heather!
Bob Bishop, Farmer
Submitted by Bill Bailey of Cheq Bay Renewables
Two Ashland, Wisconsin nonprofits are installing solar photovoltaic systems on their facilities. The nonprofits are household names in the Chequamegon Bay area of western Lake Superior – the New Day Advocacy Center and The BRICK Ministries.
New Day Advocacy Center provides free and confidential domestic violence and sexual assault victim services, including shelter and other crisis intervention services. They also provide community prevention education to culture respect and lasting change in community behavior – No More Abuse!
The BRICK’s mission is to compassionately help people in need. They are best known for their Food Shelf Program, but also provide emergency financial resources and referrals with a focus to keep people in their homes through their Benevolence Program
Both organizations have considered solar installations in the past to reduce utility expenses and to generate clean energy. But as each nonprofit had roofs which needed repair, and had purchased or recently moved into newly renovated facilities, they were both financially strained. The solar would have to wait. That was until Eric Udelhofen called from OneEnergy Renewables, a community and utility scale solar project developer based in Seattle, Washington with a satellite office in Madison.
OneEnergy had 35 high-quality, modern solar modules they wanted to donate to a worthy Ashland nonprofit. OneEnergy was the solar developer on the recently constructed 1-megawatt Xcel Energy community solar garden in Ashland. The modules were “bones,” extra parts, left over from purchasing or shipping in bulk quantities, and OneEnergy wanted something good to come from their surplus.
Solar modules represent roughly 15% of the cost of a small solar project. The other 85% is comprised of inverters, racking, miscellaneous additional materials and labor. Jolma Electric of Ashland, who was also involved in the installation of Ashland’s community solar project, joined the project agreeing to perform its installation services “at cost,” and the total project cost was reduced by 22%. Then C&S Design & Engineering, also from Ashland, reduced their engineering cost by 50%, further lowering the total installation price.
Additional funding was needed to cover the remaining balance of the installation. The New Day Board was the first of the two projects to vote to move forward with raising the remaining funds. A GoFundMe site was set up and $6,500 was raised in two weeks. In addition, $3,400 of private checks were received designated for the solar installation. Of the nearly $10,000 of cash donated to the New Day rooftop solar project, OneEnergy employees donated $6,000.
There is another story here. At the core of OneEnergy’s business model is a commitment to serve the communities in which they operate, along with a strident belief that the transition to clean energy will help create a more sustainable and equitable global economy. Not only did the corporation donate the solar modules, but employees stood behind this commitment and donated their personal cash. The status quo of corporate America as an entity has become isolated from their communities. OneEnergy, as well as Jolma Electric and C&S Design and Engineering, are demonstrating an alternative approach, modeling a more enlightened view about the role of companies in society and a commitment to be the change that they wish to see in the world.
So New Day’s project is off and running and now The BRICK has begun its fundraising campaign. An awning style installation was designed by Jolma Electric and C&S Design & Engineering. The donated modules will fill half the south façade of the facility with opportunity to fill the remainder if or when funds allow. The full project would cost $31,990 of which $20,490 has already been raised. A GoFundMe site has been set up for The BRICK to fund the remaining $11,500. If you can help go to: https://bit.ly/3k0IeLm to donate.
During this time of COVID-19, it is encouraging to see that community-building defeats fear, love overcomes hatred, and clean energy offsets fossil fuels. With the support of this community, these two nonprofits, New Day Advocacy Center and The BRICK, are choosing the alternative path, the “culture of service.”
Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed a challenge to state control of net metering. The unanimous decision made on Thursday, July 16, 2020 was great news for RENEW Wisconsin and our members. Homeowners, business and manufacturers that generate their own solar energy can now breathe easy, knowing that the oversight for net metering policy remains in the hands of Wisconsin’s own Public Service Commission.
The New England Ratepayers Association (“NERA”) had petitioned the FERC to take control over net metering policy for the entire country. If the petition were granted, states would have lost the ability to set policy on solar electricity generated by utility customers. The challenge to state control of net metering, the policy that enables energy producers to get bill credit for the extra energy they push back on to the grid, threatened the solar investments of thousands of families and businesses in Wisconsin.
RENEW joined dozens of other clean energy advocacy organizations in a petition to dismiss the issue and encouraged Wisconsin’s political leadership to get involved. Many elected officials from around the country joined in the fight to protect net metering including Wisconsin’s own, Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Check out the background on this story and how RENEW fought to protect Wisconsinites generating clean energy on their homes and businesses.