New Resource for Wisconsin Solar Customers

New Resource for Wisconsin Solar Customers

Residential solar installations are increasing rapidly across Wisconsin. As with any growing industry, it is essential consumers are educated and know how to find responsible, reputable firms.

RENEW has provided tips for consumers when selecting a solar contractor for their home installation and has created a Solar Installers map with links to our solar installer members. However, instances of aggressive salespeople and deficient solar installations continue to grow.

In 2020, RENEW Wisconsin partnered with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the state’s foremost authority on consumer trade, to create consumer awareness around solar, particularly how to choose a qualified, reliable solar contractor.

DATCP has published this information on their website under Solar Power Buying Tips. The document can also be viewed and downloaded as a PDF. DATCP also provides a Consumer Complaint Form where consumers can register complaints relating to negligent solar installers.

RENEW Wisconsin thanks the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for their work on this initiative. It’s reassuring to know the state of Wisconsin is officially prioritizing the protection of solar customers.

You have the opportunity to create your clean energy legacy

You have the opportunity to create your clean energy legacy

In 1991, Don Wichert saw a need for an organization to advocate for Wisconsin’s renewable energy future. As founder and first executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, Don set forth on his mission to promote the development and use of renewable energy resources in the state of Wisconsin. Thirty years later, RENEW is a thriving and growing nonprofit organization working towards clean energy powering a strong, healthy, and vibrant Wisconsin.

RENEW Wisconsin’s accomplishments over the past 30 years are part of Don’s legacy. But there is more work to be done, and Don knows RENEW needs a stable financial foundation to continue its work for another 30 years. He worked with Madison Community Foundation to create a RENEW Wisconsin Charitable Gift Annuity and the RENEW Endowment Fund to ensure a financial pipeline for our clean energy future.

CHARITABLE GIFT ANNUITY
For donors interested in taking a charitable deduction on their taxes in the current year while still receiving income from those assets, a charitable gift annuity (CGA) offers the opportunity to achieve both goals. CGAs allow you to make a current tax-deductible gift to benefit RENEW Wisconsin while still receiving a lifetime annual income.

The idea of a charitable gift annuity was very appealing. The guaranteed interest rate was high enough to make it a reasonable investment during my lifetime. And the CGA provides tax benefits too…RENEW, and the work that it does is my legacy.

Don Wichert, RENEW Wisconsin Founder

RENEW ENDOWMENT FUND
The RENEW Endowment Fund supports paid internships from the Energy Analysis and Policy Program at UW-Madison. This endowment allows RENEW to offer a hands-on, real-life job experience to future leaders in renewable energy.

The RENEW staff gave me the trust and mentorship I needed to become a strong clean energy policy advocate. I was able to grow my utility regulation knowledge, energy education skills, and Midwest clean energy network. Thank you, RENEW WI, for being my strong stepping stone into the clean energy industry.

Lauren Reeg – Energy Analysis and Policy Intern

You have the opportunity to help create a cleaner, stronger, more vibrant Wisconsin by setting up a Charitable Gift Annuity listing RENEW Wisconsin as the beneficiary and/or giving to the RENEW Endowment Fund. Madison Community Foundation makes giving incredibly easy.

I can help facilitate communications with Madison Community Foundation to start planning your legacy now. Contact me at: Elizabeth@renewwisconsin.org or call 608-255-4044 ext. 7

New bill will ensure Wisconsin doesn’t get left behind in the electric vehicle marketplace

New bill will ensure Wisconsin doesn’t get left behind in the electric vehicle marketplace

Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) circulated a bill earlier this week that would allow for a direct sales business model of electric vehicles (EVs). If passed, EV manufacturers could sell their vehicles directly to consumers, either online or from a manufacturer-owned dealership, rather than through the traditional dealership model we know today.

The Kooyenga/Neylon Bill is key to increasing EV adoption and is a much-needed policy to overcome a free market barrier. It would permit Wisconsin’s consumers greater access to EVs that better suit their financial and driving needs by allowing them to purchase online or directly from the manufacturer-dealership.

Consumer purchasing power is especially relevant when considering increased demand in the electric vehicle market. Edmunds predicts the U.S. will experience record EV sales in 2021, while Bloomberg projections demonstrate increased demand in the coming decades, with a projected 54 million EV sales in 2040. Even here in Wisconsin, we can expect anywhere from 25%-50% EV adoption by 2050[1]. Adopting the Kooyenga/Neylon bill would give consumers more EV purchasing options, granting direct access to their electric vehicle models of choice as EV demand continues to climb and more models become available.

Online consumer spending increased over the past year, and most consumers prefer a portion of their vehicle purchasing decisions to be online. The virtual EV marketplace is expected to grow alongside a rapidly growing EV market, lending greater free-market support for the Kooyenga/Neylon bill.

At any rate, aren’t the purchasing decisions of Wisconsin’s consumers better left to them? The free market says so, and this is exactly what the Kooyenga/Neylon bill would allow.

For more information, please contact Jeremy Orr at (608) 210-1428 or jeremy@renewwisconsin.org.


[1] Plug-In Electric Vehicle Analysis of Wisconsin, RENEW Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Madison Energy Analysis and Policy Capstone Project, May 2019.

EVs for Good Program Announcement

EVs for Good Program Announcement

UPDATE: The first grant cycle for EVs for Good closed Saturday, May 1, 2021. Applications for the second grant cycle are now being accepted on a rolling basis.


March 5th, 2021

RENEW is happy to announce EVs for Good, a new grant program created to foster the expansion of and transition to electric vehicles among nonprofits in Wisconsin. EVs for Good will reduce the upfront costs of purchasing an electric vehicle while reducing vehicle maintenance costs and transportation emissions. 

RENEW Wisconsin’s mission is to lead and accelerate the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. Transportation accounts for approximately 25% of Wisconsin’s energy use and emissions. This presents a huge opportunity to transition our state’s vehicles away from fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable electricity sources. Electrifying transportation will result in lower carbon emissions and improved air quality for all Wisconsinites. 

EVs for Good is possible thanks to a generous donation from Carol and Andy Phelps. The Phelps installed a solar array at their Middleton home in 2019 and recently purchased an electric vehicle to further reduce their carbon emissions. The Phelps are extremely happy with their shift from gasoline and want to ensure everyone has the same opportunity.

“Everyone thinks electric cars are only for rich people, but EVs are for everybody,” said Andy Phelps.

This interview of Carol and Andy Phelps explains why they are so passionate about the EVs for Good program.

EVs for Good will offer grants for 20% of the cost of an electric vehicle, with a maximum grant of $5,000. Larger grants, capped at $10,000, are available for organizations seeking to purchase an electric van or bus. In addition, $500 grants are available for organizations who choose to install Level 2 (or higher) electric vehicle charging equipment.

Preference will be given to organizations that work on issues related to social justice or education.   Preference will also be given to organizations that serve black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), low-income, or rural communities, as well as, those that serve children or seniors.

 

Nonprofits can apply for the following:

  • Vehicle Grant: Covers 20% of the cost of a new or used electric vehicle, with a $5,000 maximum amount. Grants may also cover 20% of an electric bicycle or an electric cargo bicycle purchase. 
  • Van or Bus Grant: Covers 20% of the cost of a new or used electric van or bus, with a maximum grant amount of $10,000. The vehicle must be able to transport eight or more persons safely.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Grant: $500 grant for nonprofits installing a Level 2 (or higher) electric vehicle charger.

 

Organizations that receive an EVs for Good grant must agree to promote their awards in their communities. This outreach can be a media event, an open house for the solar + charging infrastructure, a vehicle demonstration, or a “ride and drive” for an electric vehicle purchase.

Grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, with the initial grant cycle opening in Spring 2021. If all funds are not awarded in Spring 2021, grant applications will be accepted on a biannual basis until all funds are dispersed.

The initial grant cycle for EVs for Good opens on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Applications are due by Saturday, May 1, 2021. Questions can be emailed to sam@renewwisconsin.org.

2020 National Solar Jobs Census

2020 National Solar Jobs Census

Today the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council released the 2020 National Solar Jobs Census. While there was a 6.7% decline in the national workforce from 2019, solar jobs in Wisconsin held steady throughout 2020.

Nationally, the solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020. The report tracks all solar jobs in residential and utility-scale construction, as well as all supply chains, and includes anyone who spends 50% or more of their time working on solar-related activities.

While overall national solar employment dropped, the Solar Jobs Census results did show favorable numbers in specific categories. Diversity in the workforce increased, mainly among women but also among Blacks, Asians, Latinos, and Hispanics. Additionally, the Census demonstrated that pay rates for solar jobs were comparable or higher than the U.S. averages for similar occupations in energy and construction industries.

Productivity in solar showed significant growth in 2020. Record amounts of solar installations occurred last year as the total U.S. capacity increased by over 19,000 megawatts. A vast majority (73%) of the installed solar capacity was utility-scale, but residential solar productivity also increased by 19% nationwide.

Here in Wisconsin, our solar installation totals set records last year. The completion of the Two Creeks solar farm in Manitowoc County was part of over 200 megawatts of solar that came online in 2020. According to RENEW’s analysis, Wisconsin’s cumulative solar capacity more than doubled in 2020.

Wisconsin residential solar installations also increased in 2020. Over 10 megawatts of solar were installed on homes last year compared with approximately 5 megawatts in 2019. Focus on Energy saw nearly a tripling of requests for residential solar incentives, going from around 700 reservations to over 2,000. This surge in solar adoption was likely due to people spending more time in their homes, recognizing their energy consumption habits, and seeking to reduce their utility bills.

According to the Solar Jobs Census, solar employment figures in the Badger state saw a slight improvement from last year’s figures. Across the state, jobs were up from 2,871 in 2019 to 2,910 in 2020. Wisconsin is ranked #26 nationally for all solar-related employment.

While the Wisconsin job totals are reassuring, significant workforce growth is still needed. According to SEIA, “the solar industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030,” but “employment will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach the 100% clean electricity goal set by President Biden.”

Approximately 2,450 megawatts of generation are expected to come online in Wisconsin over the next 3-5 years. We will need to scale up our solar workforce in that timeframe to complete these projects. Wisconsin’s solar industry offers an unparalleled opportunity to grow our clean energy workforce and reinvest millions in our local economies.

Did You Miss the Earth Day Electric Vehicle Parade?

Last Thursday (April 22), RENEW Wisconsin partnered with the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change and Slipstream on the 2nd Annual Earth Day Electric Vehicle (EV) Parade. 

Several dozen EV owners and car dealers gathered in Madison with an assortment of all-electric vehicles, hybrids, and electric motorcycles, including the new Ford Mustang Mach-E, BMW Roadster, and the Harley LiveWire Motorcycle, amongst other makes and models. 

Parade participants started at Brittingham Park in Madison, drove through the city and Capitol Square, and then returned to Brittingham Park. You can watch the parade on Channel 3000.com.

The parade was inspired by EV drivers who see the transition to electric vehicles as another tool in the fight against climate change. Other EV owners mentioned that EVs are fun to drive and even stand up to the challenges of Wisconsin’s cold winters!

For more information about the parade or upcoming electric vehicle events, please contact Jeremy Orr at (608) 210-1428 or jeremy@renewwisconsin.org.

Funding Opportunity Announcement: $162 Million to Decarbonize Transportation

Funding Opportunity Announcement: $162 Million to Decarbonize Transportation

The Department of Energy recently announced $162 Million in grant funding to electrify medium- and heavy-duty trucks, expand electric vehicle infrastructure, and increase vehicle efficiency.  This funding is an important step towards EV adoption, decarbonization, and emerging technologies in general. The programs will help to electrify transportation while allowing enough flexibility for project applicants to focus on different low emissions concepts that suit their communities.

$100 Million in SuperTruck 3 Funding

The Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) and Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office are partnering on the “SuperTruck 3” funding opportunity, which will provide up to $100 million to electrify medium- and heavy-duty truck projects that increase vehicle efficiency and decrease emissions. The funding will be available over four years and can be used for:

  • All-electric vehicle concepts
  • Hybrid systems using renewable biofuels
  • Hydrogen fuel cell technologies and hybrid concepts such as fuel cell range extenders

$62 Million for Low Greenhouse Gas Vehicle Technologies

In addition to SuperTruck 3 funding, the Vehicle Technologies Office is offering $62 Million for on- and off-road vehicle projects that reduce emissions and increase vehicle efficiency. Eligible activities include the expansion of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and community-level projects that reduce barriers to EV adoption, such as the installation of EV charging stations at multi-family dwellings.

Concept papers are due May 13, 2021, at 5 PM EST, with full applications due July 12, 2021, at 5 PM EST. Applicants for both funding opportunities are required to submit a plan detailing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including project benefits for underrepresented communities.

For more information, please visit the EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange.

City of Madison and Dane County Launch 2021 Solar Programs

City of Madison and Dane County Launch 2021 Solar Programs

On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the City of Madison and Dane County announced the start of this year’s MadiSUN Solar Energy Programs. The MadiSUN programs aim to expand access to local renewable energy and include initiatives and grants that assist residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations with onsite solar electric installations.

The MadiSUN Solar Group Buy is for Dane County homeowners looking to install solar on their rooftops. The Solar for Business program provides project grants and consulting services for Madison businesses interested in installing solar electric systems. And the Backyard Solar program offers up to $10,000 in grants for affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations seeking to install solar electric systems at their facilities in the City of Madison.

The Group Buy program, now in its sixth year, will expand this year to offer solar installations to homeowners across Dane County. The Group Buy has spurred approximately $2.38 million in clean energy investments since 2016 and has added over 800 kilowatts of renewable electricity to the community’s electric grid. To date, nearly 200 local homes have gone solar through MadiSUN.

“Now in its sixth year, the MadiSUN program offers a way for residents, businesses, nonprofits, and affordable housing providers to go solar,” said Stacie Reece, the Sustainability Program Coordinator for the City of Madison. “Every rooftop solar installation contributes to the City of Madison’s goal of 100% renewable energy and helps reduce carbon emissions.”

In addition to expanding the Group Buy to all of Dane County, the program will also expand the number of solar contractors. MadiSUN has partnered with Full Spectrum Solar, Midwest Solar Power, and Arch Electric to ensure residents have access to reputable, experienced contractors for their solar installations.

“With the program’s expansion this year, we wanted to ensure that homeowners throughout the county had multiple options when it came to solar,” stated Sam Dunaiski, Program Director for MadiSUN. “Residents in rural portions of Dane County have different needs than residents in urban or suburban areas. Homeowners will now have access to more solar contractors and the different materials and services they provide.”

The Group Buy will also provide multiple options for homeowners looking to finance their solar systems. Low-interest loans for solar arrays will be available through greenpenny bank and Clean Energy Credit Union.

“We can offer Dane County residents fast, easy, and affordable financing for their solar projects,” said Jason MacDuff, Vice President of greenpenny. “Whether the appeal of solar is its climate stewardship, its economic benefits, or both, greenpenny’s mission is to finance a sustainable tomorrow.”

The Solar for Business program, currently in its fourth year, will offer grants to Madison-based businesses choosing to install onsite solar arrays. The program has facilitated solar on 16 businesses across the city for a total capacity of more than 750 kilowatts of renewable energy.

The Backyard Solar program will continue to offer grants for solar projects with affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations in Madison. The program approved seven grants during its first two years of operation. These seven projects will result in nearly 550 kilowatts of solar energy, enough to power roughly 100 households.

Movin’ Out, an affordable housing provider based in Madison, won a Backyard grant in 2020 to install a 100-kilowatt solar array at the Ace Apartments. The facility will provide affordable housing access to children, veterans, the disabled, and their families.

“The opportunity to participate in MadiSUN’s Backyard Solar program helps us achieve our goals for green building to provide the healthiest possible environments for the people and communities we serve,” said Kathryne Auerback, Executive Director of Movin’ Out. “The more we are able to invest in renewable energy and environmentally sustainable building now, the greater the returns will be in the long run.”

Residents can receive a complimentary solar assessment by visiting madisunsolar.com and filling out the “I’m Interested” form. Applications for the Group Buy program must be submitted by August 31, 2021.  The application deadline for the Backyard Solar Grant is September 1, 2021, and applications for the Solar for Business grant are open until December 31, 2021.

 

About MadiSUN

MadiSUN facilitates solar power installation for residents, businesses, and nonprofits located within the City of Madison. Promotional videos can be accessed by visiting MadiSUN’s YouTube channel. More can be found at www.madisunsolar.com.

About RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles in Wisconsin. RENEW Wisconsin is contracted by the City of Madison to administer the MadiSUN programs. More information can be found at www.renewwisconsin.org.

With PSC Approval, Alliant Set to Become Wisconsin’s Premier Solar-Powered Utility

With PSC Approval, Alliant Set to Become Wisconsin’s Premier Solar-Powered Utility

First round of solar farms to be operational in 2023

The Public Service Commission’s approval today of Alliant Energy’s proposed buildout of new solar power represents the most significant advance yet towards a zero-carbon future in Wisconsin.

With the Commission’s ruling under its belt, Alliant has secured all the necessary permits to set in motion the first wave of a massive solar deployment across Wisconsin. Totaling 675 megawatts (MW), the first six solar farms approved today will take Alliant two-thirds of the way toward its ambitious goal to integrate more than a gigawatt of solar capacity into its base generation portfolio over the next four years.  (Note: a gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts).

When this initial wave of projects is fully operational in 2023, roughly 13% of the electricity sold to Alliant customers will come from a solar farm. Indeed, Alliant is on course to own and operate almost one-half of the state’s solar capacity by 2024, a remarkable percentage given that it accounts for only 16% of the state’s electricity sales.

“We salute Alliant for committing to this bold pivot towards zero-carbon power generated in Wisconsin,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Heather Allen. “We are hopeful the Public Service Commission’s decision will encourage other utilities to go big on solar power.”

Allen said: “Alliant’s substantial investment in clean energy will produce savings that will be passed along to customers over the lifetimes of these projects. But when you factor in the other benefits from solar power–the job creation opportunities, the stream of revenues for host landowners and their communities, and fewer pollutants discharged into our air and groundwater–this build-out is very much in the public interest.”

In March 2021, Alliant submitted an application for authority to build and operate a second wave of solar power, another six farms totaling 414 MW. Approval of that application would increase Alliant’s solar portfolio to 1,089 MW.

“A solar build-out of this magnitude would have been unthinkable five years ago,” Allen said. “Only a handful of utilities then were thinking about replacing their aging coal plants with carbon-free energy sources like solar. But with these two back-to-back solar applications, WPL appears to be off to the races.”

Once operational, the solar farms listed in the tables below would account for more than 20% of Alliant’s electricity sales in Wisconsin. What is more, the output from these 12 solar farms would surpass generation totals now achieved from Wisconsin’s wind power projects.

Alliant Energy solar farms – 6680-CE-182
Approved April 22, 2022
Solar farm Location (county) Capacity (in MW) Year online
Crawfish River Jefferson 75 2022
Grant County Grant 200 2022
North Rock Sheboygan 50 2023
Onion River Rock 150 2023
Richland County Richland 50 2022
Wood County Wood 150 2023
Total 675  

 

 

Alliant Energy solar farms – 6680-CE-183
Application filed March 31, 2021
Solar farm Location (county) Capacity (in MW) Year online
Albany Green 50 2023
Beaver Dam Dodge 50 2023
Cassville Grant 50 2023
Paddock Rock 65 2023
Springfield Dodge 100 2022
Wautoma Waushara 99 2023
Total 414  

 

So why is Alliant working so hard to integrate a gigawatt of solar capacity into its generation mix? The short answer is that the utility has determined that building solar power today is more cost-effective than prolonging the life of its coal units. This realization came after a thorough analysis that compared the adequacy of its existing generating fleet with the operational savings and flexibility Alliant could achieve from a massive solar build-out.

Here’s how Alliant summarized the conclusions of its modeling work to justify its latest application.

“Based on this result, {Alliant} developed its Clean Energy Blueprint resource plan, its preferred plan to benefit customers, which includes: retiring the Edgewater 5 generating unit by the end of  2022; retiring Columbia 1 and Columbia 2 by the end of 2023 and 2024, respectively; serving customers with capacity and energy from 1,089 MW of new utility-scale solar generation installed in Wisconsin by the end of 2023, and installing distributed solar and battery storage resources in the communities {Alliant} serves.

The PSC is expected to rule on its second application in early 2022.

Second Annual Earth Day Electric Vehicle Parade to be Hosted by Dane County, RENEW Wisconsin, and Slipstream

Second Annual Earth Day Electric Vehicle Parade to be Hosted by Dane County, RENEW Wisconsin, and Slipstream

On Thursday, April 22, the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate ChangeRENEW Wisconsin, and Slipstream, will be hosting an Earth Day Electric Vehicle (EV) Parade in downtown Madison. At 1:30 PM, a variety of electric vehicles will converge at Brittingham Park. The parade will depart the park at 2 PM, drive through the city and university, make a loop around Capitol Square, and then return to Brittingham Park around 2:30 PM.

All electric cars (as well as electric trucks and electric motorcycles) are welcome to join the parade. For more information and to register for the event, please visit Earth Day EV Parade.

Spectators are encouraged to attend at Brittingham Park, Capitol Square, or along the parade route. All attendees are asked to social distance and wear masks when interacting with others.

With transportation emissions accounting for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, EVs are a significant solution to the climate emergency. Electric vehicles are clean and produce zero tailpipe emissions. Even in a state like Wisconsin, where coal-fired power plants are the largest supplier of in-state electricity generation, EVs emit lower annual emissions than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles. As Wisconsin continues to transition to clean energy, the environmental benefits of “driving electric” will continue to increase.

“Dane County is excited to participate in the Earth Day EV Parade and help showcase that electric vehicles are already being utilized in our community,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This parade gives people an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of EVs. Dane County added several EVs to our fleet in 2020, and we hope to see even more on the road in the future.”

Local citizens organized Madison’s first Earth Day EV Parade in 2020, which went from Middleton to Capitol Square and back to Middleton. Several dozen EVs participated in last year’s event, and more are anticipated this year. Vehicles that have signed up this year include the Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona, Toyota Prius Prime, Audi E-tron, and Harley Davidson Livewire.