RENEW Wisconsin and the City of Madison Announce the Launch of the 2023 MadiSUN Programs

RENEW Wisconsin and the City of Madison Announce the Launch of the 2023 MadiSUN Programs

On Tuesday, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and RENEW Wisconsin announced the launch of MadiSUN’s 2023 Solar Programs, the City’s initiative to expand solar energy for local homes, businesses, affordable housing providers, and nonprofits. Participants included Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin; Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen Sr., Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church; and Maria Redmond, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.

MadiSUN is the City of Madison’s initiative to help foster the expansion of solar renewable energy. It consists of three programs: Group Buy for Homes, Solar for Businesses, and the Backyard Solar Grant. The Group Buy for Homes program simplifies the process of going solar for Dane County homeowners by putting them into direct contact with reputable solar installers. Since 2016, it has helped 289 Dane County residents install solar panels, totaling over 1600 kW. Solar for Business aims to educate and encourage Madison-based businesses to install solar power at their facilities. Since the program’s inception in 2018, they have awarded grants to 24 businesses with an aggregate capacity of 1600-kW and a total investment of $2,200,435. The Backyard Solar Grant fosters access to solar power for Madison-based community organizations and affordable housing providers that serve City of Madison residents. 19 organizations have received grants from the Backyard Program, with Mt. Zion Baptist Church receiving a $10,000 grant in 2021 for their 21.6-kW solar array. Looking forward to the 2023 season, MadiSUN is optimistic about the new possibilities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act on the programs. With nonprofit organizations now able to utilize previously unavailable solar incentives and an increase in the Solar Investment Tax Credit, RENEW is excited to facilitate the continued growth of these programs.

“I anticipate 2023 will be our best year yet!” said Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, “As administrator of the MadiSUN programs, RENEW believes in an all-of-the-above approach to renewable energy adoption. MadiSUN helps community organizations lower the upfront costs of solar, it helps Madison businesses navigate the questions around commercial solar implementation, and it makes going solar easy and affordable for local homeowners. These solar projects will help residents throughout the Madison area save money on their utility bills and reduce their carbon footprint.”

“We felt that installing a solar system would help the church serve the South Madison community by providing an example of leadership in demonstrating to the minority community the importance of good environmental stewardship.”  said Pastor Allen of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.We want to show the community the potential of long-term benefits of reducing dependence on nonrenewable resources thus, reducing the church’s carbon footprint.”

Federal investments from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will complement and accelerate Madison’s Climate Forward Agenda by providing much-needed funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building and transportation sectors. IRA incentives will help increase the reach of City programs that support energy efficiency upgrades to naturally occurring affordable housing, and rooftop solar for homes and businesses through MadiSUN, and accelerate the transition of the City’s fleet to low- and no-carbon fuels, among other ongoing initiatives. The timing is fortuitous for new programs as well. The City’s new Building Energy Savings Program will help large commercial building owners identify opportunities to increase their energy efficiency and save money.

“I am very excited about the opportunities President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will bring for our MadiSUN program. The bill will allow thousands of Madisonians to transition to clean energy and grow the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses,” said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The IRA will help Madison accelerate and reach its climate goals by providing funding directly to local households, businesses, and nonprofits to reduce energy costs and make clean energy and transportation more accessible for everyone. This can be done through: home energy efficiency upgrades, home energy systems, using electric vehicles, growing Wisconsin’s green economy, and by businesses utilizing energy cost savings.

  • Home energy efficiency upgrades – The law includes rebates for energy-efficient electric heat pumps, water heaters, stoves, ovens, or other home appliances with more energy-efficient electric appliances for low- and moderate-income households. Any household can receive tax credits covering 30% of the cost of home construction projects on windows, doors, insulation, or other weatherization measures that reduce energy waste. These upgrades can lower home energy bills by at least $350 annually.
  • Home energy systems – Households can also receive tax credits to cover 30% of installation of solar panels or battery storage costs. The average family installing solar using this credit would save $9,000 on their electricity bill over the system’s life, or about $300 per year.
  • Electric vehicles – The IRA makes electric vehicles more affordable by providing up-front discounts of up to $7,500 for new and $4,000 for used electric vehicles, helping families save as much as $950 per year on fuel costs. Businesses can receive tax credits of up to $40,000 for commercial electric vehicles and a $100,000 tax credit for installing EV charging infrastructure in qualified census tracts.
  • Growing Wisconsin’s green economy – Between 2023 and 2030, the IRA will bring an estimated $4 billion of investment to boost our manufacturing industry, employing an average of 472,000 workers.
  • Business energy cost savings – Through the IRA, small businesses can receive a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of switching over to low-cost solar power.

More information about the MadiSUN programs can be found on the programs website or by contacting the program coordinator Lauren Cohen at RENEW Wisconsin.


Full “STEAM” Ahead: Visit Sheboygan STEAM Completes 19.5- kW Solar Array

Full “STEAM” Ahead: Visit Sheboygan STEAM Completes 19.5- kW Solar Array

On Thursday, March 23, Visit Sheboygan STEAM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their 19.5-kilowatt solar array. Visit Sheboygan STEAM is a nonprofit organization that provides innovative science, technology, and urban ecology education.

The project, installed by Arch Solar, consists of 52 solar panels and is projected to offset approximately 28% of the building’s electrical needs and 56% of Visit Sheboygan STEAM’s production. “We had a blast working with Visit Sheboygan STEAM on their solar installation,” said Andrew Holmstrom at Arch Solar. “Installing on such a river-visible location, in downtown Sheboygan, meant a lot of Arch.”

Visit Sheboygan STEAM’s provides environmental and urban ecology education, and those involved with the STEAM program are excited by the solar installation’s educational opportunities. “The mission of our organization includes environmentally focused STEAM education, and this project will help us facilitate a new line of programming featuring photovoltaics and renewable energy,” said Kathy Cannistra, Program Developer at Visit Sheboygan STEAM.

As a popular destination among locals and tourists, Visit Sheboygan STEAM’s solar installation is a role model for similar organizations to follow in their footsteps. “All of Sheboygan County is in the early adoption stages of solar, so influential organizations paving the way are crucial in its development,” continued Holmstrom. “As time goes on, and the STEAM program grows, we’re looking forward to getting involved and providing education to the leaders of tomorrow on clean energy.”

This project was primarily funded by the organization’s existing donor base and business sponsors. In addition, RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program provided Visit Sheboygan STEAM with a $5,000 grant to assist with the upfront cost of the solar array.

“Environmental stewardship and education are core to our mission,” continued Cannistra. “Therefore, we are thrilled that this solar project has helped reduce the energy-related costs of our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) programming while simultaneously demonstrating that solar power can be effective in our climate and region.”

RENEW and MREA Host MadiSun “Solar 100” Workforce Training  Courses

RENEW and MREA Host MadiSun “Solar 100” Workforce Training Courses

On February 7, 2023, and March 2, 2023, RENEW Wisconsin and Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) hosted two Solar Workforce Training Courses at Madison Technical College as part of the MadiSUN Solar Energy Program. MadiSUN is the City of Madison’s solar program administered by RENEW Wisconsin.

Solar installer is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States. Madison has a robust solar market, and solar installers struggle to find enough qualified employees. In response to this need, RENEW Wisconsin crafted a solar workforce initiative that had two primary goals:

1. To increase the number of qualified, trained workers in our community that local solar contractors could utilize to expand the total solar capacity installed in Madison.
2. To increase family-supporting careers within communities of color and low-income communities in the City of Madison.

To fulfill these goals, RENEW Wisconsin partnered with MREA instructors to host two “Solar 100” training sessions. These classes were each a one-day (8-hour) course that introduced participants to solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and workplace safety.

The course catered to those interested in a career in solar but unsure where to begin. It provided participants with many basic skills necessary for a career in the solar industry, making them more appealing to solar installation companies.

In the future, RENEW is working to find additional opportunities for participants of the Solar 100 class to take advanced training to obtain full North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. While NABCEP certification is not needed to become a solar energy professional, it gives individuals more opportunities to further their careers.

Thank you to the City of Madison, MREA, and the students who made this initiative a success. We hope to provide more training opportunities in the future to advance clean energy in Wisconsin.

Submit a comment in support of the Elk Creek Solar project!

Submit a comment in support of the Elk Creek Solar project!

Elk Creek Solar is a 300-megawatt solar project with a 76.6 MW battery energy storage system proposed in the Township of Springbrook in Dunn County, Wisconsin. As designed, Elk Creek Solar would supply homegrown, affordable, emission-free electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 60,000 homes. If approved, Elk Creek will begin producing clean power by the end of 2025. For more information, visit the application HERE. If you would like to learn more about how Elk Creek Solar is engaging with the community, check out their website HERE. If approved, Elk Creek will begin producing clean power by the end of 2025. RENEW Wisconsin submitted testimony in support of Elk Creek Solar, which you can access HERE.

Solar projects larger than 100 megawatts must gain approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) before they can proceed to construction. Along the way, there are opportunities for public comment at the township, county, and state levels.

Please help us demonstrate Wisconsin’s enthusiastic support for solar power in general and this project in particular by submitting a comment in support of Elk Creek Solar. Be sure to specifically reference the project and the benefits that it can bring to Wisconsin. The deadline for submitting comments is May 12, 2023.

Solar for Seniors: Sheboygan Senior Community Now Home to 198-kW Array

Solar for Seniors: Sheboygan Senior Community Now Home to 198-kW Array

On Tuesday, March 21, Sheboygan Senior Community (SSC), Inc. held a solar dedication ceremony for their 198-kilowatt, newly constructed solar array. Sheboygan Senior Community is a faith-based, nonprofit continuum of care facility providing respite, short-term rehab, assisted living, skilled nursing, and end-of-life services.

The project, installed by Arch Electric, consists of 448 solar panels and will produce roughly 267,000 kWh of annual energy. It is projected to offset over 28% of the organization’s current consumption. Unlike many other solar projects, Sheboygan Senior Community’s array was installed as a ground mount on approximately 1.5 acres.

“What sets the Sheboygan Senior Community Project apart from any other commercial solar project in Wisconsin is the battery or energy storage system,” says Keith Conway, Energy Consultant at Arch Solar. “This system is designed to shave peak demand charges from the utility, thus reducing their monthly electric bill. The SSC is setting an example of what is possible to the rest of the state.”

This project was brought to fruition largely due to a generous commercial benefactor, who provided 95% of the funding for the senior community’s project. The organization worked with Legacy Solar Cooperative to secure this funding. By using a private investor, they were able to utilize the 26% Investment Tax Credit which was unavailable to not-for-profit organizations before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Legacy Solar Cooperative has been very pleased to work with everyone on this wonderful project. It does indeed take a village,” says Tony Hartman, Director of Business Development at Legacy Solar Cooperative. “SSC’s leadership team especially made this project a joy, from start to finish, showing consideration for their neighbors as well as campus residents.” In addition to facilitating the financial arrangement, the cooperative provided consulting services, education, and outreach assistance.

The Sheboygan Senior Community also received a panel grant from RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program. The grant provided 150 of the 448 solar modules necessary for the project. “SSC, Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Innovation Grant Program, the Couillard Solar Foundation, Arch Solar, and key local support brought this fantastic clean energy and battery project to life, demonstrating patience through the pandemic period,” continued Hartman.

“Renewable energy is not only the right thing to do for the environment and our community, but it provides SSC with the opportunity to enjoy substantially lower utility bills for years to come,” says Stephanie Goetz, Director of Operations at Sheboygan Senior Community. “These savings will go towards expanding our campus to continue filling the needs in our community for senior living services. Our hope is that our Solar for Seniors project can be used as an example for other healthcare nonprofit organizations.”

Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter Now “Paw”ered by the Sun

Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter Now “Paw”ered by the Sun

On Tuesday, March 14th, Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter held a ribbon cutting ceremony for their 23-kilowatt, newly constructed solar array. Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter is a non-for-profit organization that provides quality care for companion animals in need and educates the community about responsible pet ownership.

The project, installed by Olson Solar, consists of 54 solar panels and will produce over 24,000 kWh of annual energy. It is projected to offset approximately 97% of the animal shelter’s consumption.

This project marked Olson Solar’s first array to be installed on an animal shelter. “With an expected lifespan of 35-40 years, their system will produce more than $100,000 in energy savings,” said Michael Palen of Olson Solar Energy. “The clean renewable energy produced by their system is equivalent to saving over 46,000 gallons of gas!”

The decision to invest in the future of their shelter with solar was made possible due to a generous donation made in late 2021. This donation, coupled with the shelter’s continued increases in energy consumption, presented an opportune time to “go solar”.

“Anything we can do to reduce our operating costs is an example to all who support us that we are doing our part by investing wisely in our animal shelter,” said David Ralph, board member of Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter.

In addition to the donation, RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program provided Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter with a $5,000 grant to assist with the upfront costs of the solar array. The project also received funding assistance through Focus on Energy incentives.

“Renewable energy projects like these can be a huge help to the community,” said Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Rivers and Bluffs will be able to take the money saved on their utility bills and immediately redirect it into caring for animals in the community.”

New Federal Grant Program Can Help Keep Billions in The State’s Economy

New Federal Grant Program Can Help Keep Billions in The State’s Economy

Wisconsin residents and businesses spend over $7 Billion annually importing fossil fuels for the state’s transportation sector (Wisconsin doesn’t produce petroleum). A new Federal Program that supports Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations can help reduce fossil fuel imports and retain billions of dollars currently leaking out of the state’s economy.

The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) program is the first round of funding from the $2.5 Billion discretionary budget for EV charging infrastructure allocated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The CFI provides $700 million to cities, counties, local governments, and tribes to build publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure in the current fiscal year.

The CFI program offers up to 80% of the cost of building community and neighborhood charging infrastructure in urban and rural communities and charging stations along designated highways.

Eligible applicants include states, municipal planning organizations (MPOs), local governments, public authorities with transportation functions, tribal governments, authorities owned by one or more entities of government, and states or local entities with ownership of publicly accessible transportation facilities. Private entities can participate in projects if contracted with a public entity.

Eligible entities can apply here. Applications are due by May 30, 2023.

Qualified applicants may contact Francisco Sayu, Emerging Technologies Director RENEW Wisconsin at, for more information.

In addition, the Electrification Coalition provides a “suite of resources” to help communities apply for funding. And, The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation offers technical assistance to states, communities, and tribes implementing projects under the CFI Program.

RENEW Wisconsin Appoints Beata Wierzba as Government Affairs Director

RENEW Wisconsin Appoints Beata Wierzba as Government Affairs Director

RENEW Wisconsin has appointed Beata Wierzba as Government Affairs Director following the retirement of Jim Boullion. Wierzba has been involved in government affairs for over 20 years, with previous positions at Nsight, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, and the Wisconsin State Legislature.

“I am excited to be working on state legislation again and look forward to being part of an organization dedicated to advancing renewable energy,” Wierzba said. “I wish all the best to Jim Boullion on his retirement.”

RENEW’s previous Government Affairs Director, Jim Boullion, retired on February 17, 2023, after helping Wierzba transition into the role at RENEW. “I am so excited to have Beata take my place at RENEW Wisconsin and lead our efforts to advance renewable energy,” he said. “Beata and I have worked together for over 20 years, and I have always been impressed by her. Her experience in government affairs with Wisconsin’s Electric Cooperative Association will give her a great foundation on the issues, and her relationships with the key players in the energy sector will allow her to hit the ground running.”

“We are very excited for Beata to join RENEW,” said Executive Director Sam Dunaiski. “Beata brings years of experience in the energy industry and a work ethic that matches our efforts as an organization. RENEW is thrilled to add Beata to our talented team.”

Submit a comment in support of the High Noon Solar Energy Center!

Submit a comment in support of the High Noon Solar Energy Center!

High Noon Solar Energy Center is a 300 megawatt solar project with a 165 MW battery energy storage system proposed in southwest Columbia County, near Portage. As designed, High Noon would supply homegrown, affordable, emission-free electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 58,000 homes. If approved, High Noon would begin producing clean power by the end of 2025. For more information, visit the application here and RENEW Wisconsin’s testimony here.

An exemplary testimony to the benefits this project offers Columbia County comes from PSC comments submitted by Larry Nelson, a 4th generation farmer in Lodi, Wisconsin.

I support High Noon Solar. I am a participating landowner and 4th generation farmer on a century family farm. We grow corn and soybeans on our farm. 100% of our Corn goes to ethanol. With the auto manufacturers transitioning to electric vehicles, I am very concerned as to what this will do to our ethanol market and increased demand for electricity. Since our family started farming in the 1800s, there has been a lot of changes to agriculture and ways to be profitable. Our family has adapted over the years to remain in agriculture and stay profitable. This is not an easy task as many family farms have disappeared over the years. The High Noon Solar project is an opportunity for us to diversify our farm income. In my opinion this is just another way to farm the sun, just as we have done to grow crops over the years. Our farmland in this project does not disappear. This is a temporary use of our land. It will be seeded down and have solar arrays on it. By seeding it down the land will be protected from erosion and runoff. Our land naturally drains and we have NO DRAIN TILE. We use commercial fertilizers on our farm along with chemicals as needed. We do not have any livestock so no manure is spread on our land. The environmental assessment has been done. There are no significant impact. This project will bring beneficial jobs into our community and will have a positive economic impact. This will also bring in 1.2 million in annual tax payments to Columbia County and participating townships. There are many financial benefits from this project in all aspects but the most important one is this is good for our environment and we are doing our part to fight climate change for future generations. Thank you for your consideration.


Larry Nelson
Lodi, Wisconsin

Proposed power plants larger than 100 megawatts must gain approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) before they can proceed to construction. Along the way, there are opportunities for public comment at the township, county, and state levels. Please help us demonstrate Wisconsin’s enthusiastic support for solar power in general and this project in particular by submitting a comment in support of the High Noon Solar Energy Center. Be sure to specifically reference the project and the benefits that it can bring to Wisconsin. The deadline for submitting comments is March 1, 2023.  

[Note: Your comments need not be as lengthy as the sample below, which was drafted to present various supporting perspectives on health, environmental sustainability, and rural economic development. We encourage you to articulate the points that matter most to you. But it’s OK to frame your comments at a very high level if that’s what you’re comfortable with.]


I write in support of the High Solar Energy Center, presently under review at Docket No. 9814-CE-100. This project, like other combined solar and battery storage projects approved by the PSCW in recent years, would protect human health and the natural environment while strengthening the state’s economy.


Consistent with Wisconsin’s Energy Priorities Law, High Noon will provide these benefits by converting locally available, noncombustible renewable energy resource—sunshine—to electricity, and feeding zero-emission into existing power lines and the battery energy storage system onsite. As configured, High Noon will displace fossil fueled generation at all times, which will measurably reduce the volume of airborne pollutants and greenhouse gases discharged from Wisconsin sources.


In-state solar projects can be counted on to energize the local economy through increased revenues to local governments while diversifying our resource mix and bringing Wisconsin a step closer to energy self-sufficiency. The economic benefits come in two forms. Initially, High Noon will create between 600 and 700 jobs in Wisconsin during the project’s construction phase. Second, once it has been placed in service, High Noon will provide rental income to participating landowners as well as payments in lieu of taxes to local jurisdictions hosting the project. Projects like these can also provide an economic hedge to farmers and rural landowners whose products are subject to commodity market forces and weather conditions that are beyond their control and can often be unforgiving.


In addition to the health and environmental benefits referenced above, High Noon will also deliver benefits to the land within in the project’s footprint. The developer proposes to revegetate the land with a mix of deep-rooted plants under and around the installation. Managing the land in this fashion will improve soil health, reduce erosion, and increase biodiversity. Finally, High Noon will have no measurable impact on local agricultural output, as  crop yields per acre in Columbia County have steadily increased since 1960.


I respectfully encourage the PSCW to rule that High Noon Solar Energy Center is in the public interest and issue a permit enabling the project to proceed to construction. Thank you for your consideration of my views.

RENEW Kicks Off 2023 with Largest Energy Summit To Date!

RENEW Kicks Off 2023 with Largest Energy Summit To Date!

On Thursday, January 26th, RENEW held our 12th annual Renewable Energy Summit. Attendees from across Wisconsin, the Midwest, and even around the globe gathered to learn more about the clean energy transition taking place in our state. With over 600 attendees and dozens of exhibitors, this year’s Summit was our most successful to date!

Our amazing cast of panelists, presenters, and guest speakers highlighted how new federal legislation will help drive clean energy deployment in Wisconsin. As renewable energy sources continue to grow in our state, the tools available from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and other bills will increase the speed at which we phase out fossil fuels.

Each year our Summit continues to grow in size and scope. The energy and excitement at this year’s event were absolutely palpable. Thank you to the sponsors, volunteers, staff, attendees, and everyone else that helped make this an amazing Summit!