How to Select a Solar Contractor

How to Select a Solar Contractor

With solar energy becoming more popular and affordable, new solar firms are pursuing business in Wisconsin. While this competition is good for our solar energy market, it also offers opportunities for “bad actor” solar companies to take advantage of customers.

There have been several instances where Wisconsin homeowners have been exploited by dishonest solar firms. In 2019, customers in southeast Wisconsin were left with incomplete projects after a Utah-based company failed to complete their solar arrays. The customers are now looking at payments for solar systems that are not fully connected.

In 2018, another solar firm failed to complete dozens of projects in Minnesota and Wisconsin and defrauded homeowners out of over $1 million. In many cases, the company neglected to do any work whatsoever, and were simply collecting down payments from hopeful customers.

Burke O’Neal of Full Spectrum Solar in Madison, Wisconsin says that homeowners should exercise caution if they are solicited for a home solar energy system. “Customers should look for installer experience and expertise,” said O’Neal. “Make sure your company has appropriate licenses and insurance. And look for a company with an office, trucks, and a warehouse.” 

“We never ask for more than $1,000 to $2,000 as a down payment, depending on the size of the project,” added O’Neal. “If a company is asking for big payments upfront, that’s a pretty serious red flag.”

As renewable energy advocates, RENEW is disheartened to know the promise of solar energy is occasionally being used to deceive homeowners. These stories have the potential to do long-lasting damage to Wisconsin’s network of solar contractors.

If you’re considering solar power for your home, here are some guidelines:

  • Contact several reputable solar contractors. It can be difficult to know who is reputable and who is not. You can begin by looking at our map here at RENEW Wisconsin or this list from Midwest Renewable Energy Association, but don’t necessarily limit yourself to these lists.
  • Obtain at least three proposals. This will help you choose the best system and price for your needs.
  • Cross check your contractors with a third-party rating system. The Better Business Bureau, Consumer Affairs Office, Angie’s List, or other independent reviews should provide insight on the kinds of companies you’re dealing with.
  • Find out if your contractors have a license to work in your area and if they have a licensed electrician on staff. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a NABCEP-certified contractor.
  • Do more research. Talk to other homeowners who have gone through the process and ask your contractor these basic questions:
    • How long have you been in business?
    • How many systems have you installed?
    • What warranties on labor and materials are offered?
    • Who will I contact if there’s a problem?
    • American Solar Energy Society has also drafted a list of 40 questions to ask your solar installer.
  • Select a proposal and have your contractor issue you a contract. Examine the financials of the contract. Make sure the total price, payment schedule, and cancellation policy are spelled out in detail and that you understand all the warranties offered.
  • If your solar contractor can’t answer your questions, or if you’re unsure about the process in general, please contact us at RENEW Wisconsin.

A home solar system is a major purchase, and it’s important to take the time to make the right decision for yourself and your home. The process may feel overwhelming, but following the above guidelines will help ensure you’re choosing the right company for the job.

If you have had a bad experience with a solar contractor, please contact us at RENEW Wisconsin.

COVID-19 Resources for Wisconsin Solar Contractors

COVID-19 Resources for Wisconsin Solar Contractors

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in many extraordinary measures to be taken by the federal, state, and local governments such as the “Safer at Home” order prohibiting groups of people from gathering and prohibiting some businesses from operating that pose a high risk of exposing their clientele to infections. These measures have resulted in a major impact on businesses in general and the solar industry in particular.

As a new affiliate of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) we will be bringing you updates that they they are able to share on the COVID 19 issue as well.  There is a lot of information there, but check out these webpages first:

SEIA: Permitting Options for Solar Installations During the COVID-19 Outbreak
SEIA: Guidance for Solar Installers, EPCs and O&M Service Providers on Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

In Wisconsin, the construction industry, including solar, has been determined to be an “essential business” for the life-safety and infrastructure support benefits that it provides. Since this is new for everyone, the rules and guidance for how to operate in this environment are being created and amended regularly.

The leading solar and construction industry trade associations have developed excellent resources with FAQ’s on many of the important questions that contractors have such as:

Can contractors work inside buildings as well as outside?
Yes, but all essential businesses, to the greatest extent possible, are encouraged to use personal protective equipment where appropriate, use technology to avoid meeting in person when possible and engage in social distancing.

Do I need documentation to prove that I’m an “essential worker?”           (ABC of Wisconsin)
Essential workers do not need documentation to prove they are essential, according to state agency staff. Police are generally not going to be stopping individuals and asking for proof. In some rare instances, construction employees have been asked to provide documentation to prove they are essential and exempt from the “safer at home” order. While not required, it may be helpful and prudent to provide your employees with a letter explaining their exemption from the emergency order.

Do I need to request any type of exemption for my business?                   (ABC of Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which is the government agency charged with determining whether businesses are “essential,” has indicated that if your type of business is listed (i.e. construction) there is no need to get a designation to become exempt; you are already included under exempt. If your business type is listed as essential, there is no further action required.

Am I required to have written COVID-19 response plan? (ABC of Wisconsin)
While it is not explicitly required in the state’s order, the WEDC encourages each business to develop a written COVID-19 response plan that is unique to each individual business and type of work being done. 

If someone is positive with COVID-19, do I have to record in on my OSHA log? (ABC of Wisconsin)
Most likely, no. As an employer, you should determine whether there was any exposure that occurred in the work environment that caused or contributed to the test positive. As a practical matter, it is very difficult to do this and not practical to ascertain there was exposure on the worksite. OSHA would have to prove that the employee testing positive was work-related. If you have a COVID-19 case that results in a fatality or in-patient hospitalization, you would want to call OSHA. You would also likely be engaged with your local health department if this were to occur.

What steps should I be taking as a contractor employer?                             (ABC of Wisconsin)
Under the “General Duty” clause from OSHA, employers are to provide a safe and healthy workplace free from hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm.  Employers should follow the recommendations for the number of employees on a particular worksite and instruct employees on the practice of social distancing, or ensuring employees keep a six foot distance between one another while working. Employees should not share tools.

Employers should remind employees to take basic, preventative measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the workplace, including these recommendations:

   • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
   • avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth;
   • covering sneezes or coughs with tissues, if possible, or else with a sleeve or shoulder;
   • avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
   • staying home when sick; and
   • cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.

Employers should provide adequate supplies in the workplace for employees to follow these recommended practices.

CDC guidelines for protecting employees
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html 

ABC of Wisconsin Jobs Ambassador Rebecca Kleefisch discusses how contractors are addressing job site and employee safety and not taking lightly the declaration that construction is an “essential service” in Wisconsin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebRAC98RuAk&t=53s


The following websites are currently open to the public and you don’t have to be a member of the associations to access these resources.

Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin
www.abcwi.org/covid-19-updates

Wisconsin Builders Association
www.wisbuild.org/news-1/covid19

Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin
www.agcwi.org/covid-19.html

Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee
agc-gm.org/uncategorized/coronavirus/
agc-gm.org/news/agc-of-gm-covid-19-documents/
agc-gm.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-Recommended-Practices.JointAGC.docx

Construction Coalition Issues Joint Statement on Jobsite Safety During COVID-19 outbreak:
“Fifteen labor and management organizations in Wisconsin committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public by issuing specific mitigation strategies to combat the COVID-19 outbreak on jobsites.”

State of Wisconsin COVID-19 Information Webpage
govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
dsps.wi.gov/pages/Home.aspx


We will bring you further updates as they develop. If you have specific questions please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs at jim@renewwisconsin.org or by cell phone at (608) 695-7004.

RENEW Wisconsin Joins SEIA’s National Affiliate Network

RENEW Wisconsin Joins SEIA’s National Affiliate Network

Press release from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)


WASHINGTON, D.C. and MADISON, Wis. – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the U.S. solar energy industry, announced today that RENEW Wisconsin is now a formal SEIA state affiliate.

RENEW Wisconsin becomes the 18th SEIA state affiliate.

“We are thrilled to welcome RENEW Wisconsin to our network and we look forward to collaborating on policy efforts that get the state’s solar market moving again,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “As we work toward recovery from COVID-19, Wisconsin has the potential to become a regional solar leader and generate thousands of new jobs for hard-working people in the state.”

Today, Wisconsin is ranked 34th nationally with 209 megawatts of installed solar electric generating capacity. There are nearly 3,000 solar jobs in the state and those jobs are at risk as a result of the global pandemic.

“RENEW Wisconsin is excited to build our network as a new SEIA Affiliate,” said Heather Allen, Interim Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Our SEIA partners around the country are an invaluable resource as we protect renewable energy now and find opportunities to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin when this health crisis is over. Investments in solar power will keep vital dollars and family-sustaining jobs in our communities, and offer cleaner, healthier air for all of Wisconsin.”

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. The group works on policies and programs that expand solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy and electric vehicles. Since 1991 RENEW Wisconsin has been a champion for clean energy solutions in the Badger State.

SEIA has developed strategic partnerships with numerous state and regional advocacy non-profits, known as SEIA Affiliates. These organizations have demonstrated leadership on policy and regulatory matters, actively engaged with the solar industry in their respective territories and offered grassroots support for SEIA’s federal campaigns, among other accomplishments. We are proud to call them our partners in growing the U.S. solar industry.

To see a map of the current SEIA affiliates across the country, visit www.seia.org/affiliates.

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About SEIA®:
The Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA) is leading the transformation to a clean energy economy, creating the framework for solar to achieve 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies and other strategic partners to fight for policies that create jobs in every community and shape fair market rules that promote competition and the growth of reliable, low-cost solar power. Founded in 1974, SEIA is a national trade association building a comprehensive vision for the Solar+ Decade through research, education and advocacy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

Clean Air Can Stay

Clean Air Can Stay

It’s been two weeks since Governor Evers’ Safer at Home Order came into effect. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19 and those working to keep our communities safe and healthy.

This “new normal” means vehicles are staying parked, stores are temporarily closed, and the way we use energy is changing dramatically. In many large cities normally plagued with air pollution, it means unprecedented blue skies and fresh air. Experts predict this flow of fresh air will only be temporary, but here at RENEW, we are working toward a future where our air is always clean. We know this reality can be achieved with more renewable power and electrified transportation.

Less Travel Means Cleaner Skies

From China to Chicago, air quality has improved exponentially since stay-at-home orders were initiated. In Chicago, the nitrous oxide levels in the air have decreased dramatically, and it’s estimated that the improved air quality in Wuhan, China has saved 50,000 lives. All over the internet you can find pictures of the Venice canals and Los Angeles Valley looking cleaner than we’ve seen in decades.

We are by no means doing a cost-benefit analysis on the coronavirus impacts – the devastating impacts of this novel virus will be felt for years to come. However, it can be a useful and important reminder that clean air is better and possible for everyone. There is mounting evidence that poor air quality can actually make people more susceptible to catch COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, and it could make treatment more complicated too.

Clean Energy Makes Resilient Communities

This newfound clean air can stay. Clean energy technologies like the ones RENEW has been touting for decades have the ability to keep our air clean and our communities safe. Electric vehicles don’t have a tailpipe; they operate without producing emissions in densely populated areas. Clean power generation means areas near power plants no longer suffer the negative health impacts of fossil fuel emissions.

When our health is secure and we start to rebuild our economy, it’s important that we lock in the benefits that clean air can offer us. Now, more than ever, we need to prioritize the public health benefits of accessible, affordable, clean and safe energy.

Voice your support for the Paris Solar Energy Center

Voice your support for the Paris Solar Energy Center

Amid our current health and economic challenges, the solar industry is committed to investing in local communities, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenues with clean, homegrown energy. Large scale solar projects are currently being built in Wisconsin and new projects are on the horizon, ready to contribute to Wisconsin’s energy mix! In order to ensure success, we need you to help a critical project win approval at the Public Service Commission.

The Paris Solar Energy Center is a 200 megawatt project proposed in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The project will supply homegrown, affordable, emission-free electricity to 55,000 homes. If approved, the Paris Solar Energy Center would more than double the solar generating capacity we have operating in Wisconsin today. Paris Solar would begin producing clean power by 2022. Want to learn more? Check out the application here.

Help us demonstrate Wisconsin’s enthusiastic support for this project and renewable energy.

RENEW Wisconsin will share the list of supporters with the Public Service Commission during the official comment period for this project.

Please add your name to our petition!

RENEW Wisconsin Legislative Update

RENEW Wisconsin Legislative Update

Questions?

Contact Jim Boullion, RENEW’s Director of Government Affairs
jim@renewwisconsin.org
Office: (608) 255-4044 – ext 4  •  Cell: (608) 695-7004

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03.24.2020 • Governor Evers Retains Exemption for Construction from Mass Gathering Restrictions in his Safer at Home orderIf a business is unsure about whether or not they are exempted from this order, please contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation here

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03.23.2020 • Construction exempted from mass gathering restrictions – For now…

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration has issued Emergency Order #8, which clarifies that construction operations on private and public projects are exempt from previous orders related to bans on mass gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective at 5 p.m. on March 17, all public and private mass gatherings of more than 10 people in Wisconsin were prohibited in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 with certain exceptions. On Friday, March 20, an exemption was extended to “Construction sites and projects, including public works and remodeling projects,” according to the new emergency order.  The order, signed by Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, remains in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declared by Gov. Evers or until a superseding order is issued. 

However, keep an eye on the Governor’s actions in the next few days.  In a series of tweets today (Monday) Governor Evers said to expect an expanded Emergency Oder called “Safer at Home”. You can see the Tweets here:  https://twitter.com/GovEvers/status/1242097513785479169

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03.23.2020 • WEDC is providing up to $5 million in grants to small businesses in the state to help offset losses related to coronavirus response measures. 

Gov. Tony Evers has issued a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and ordering bars and restaurants to close to in-house patrons.  Retailers are also expected to take a hit as consumers stay home to prevent further community spread of the virus.

To address some of the economic impact, WEDC has developed a $5 million grant program for small businesses. Individual grants are capped at $20,000 and reserved for companies with 20 employees or fewer that have borrowed from one of the state’s 23 community development financial institutions. The funds will go toward rent and payroll expenses including paid leave for workers.  Companies that hope to receive grants will have to apply through participating CDFIs, and WEDC plans to announce results in the next few weeks.

CDFIs include credit unions and community development banks, as well as nonprofit loan funds and venture capital funds. Grant applications will be handled by the CDFIs rather than WEDC.

The Small Business 20/20 program was approved Tuesday by the agency’s board of directors. According to WEDC spokesman David Callender, at least 250 businesses will receive grant funding.  “Based on our board’s discussions yesterday, some of the small businesses are estimating losses below $20,000, so that would mean the number of participants could be higher,” he said in an email.

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes noted many of these “smallest of the small” companies don’t have sufficient reserves to survive prolonged revenue losses.  “I know that is not satisfactory to a lot of businesses around the state; I know it’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Hopefully as we see it working, we can start to expand it as more resources become available.”

CDFIs with a minimum portfolio size of at least $4 million are being encouraged to participate in the grant program. But smaller ones can also apply jointly if they have a combined portfolio size of at least $4 million.

See the release:
https://wedc.org/blog/wedc-announces-targeted-grants-to-small-businesses-suffering-losses-due-to-coronavirus-emergency/

See more program info:
https://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/small-business-2020/

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03.23.2020 • Gov. Tony Evers is requesting loan assistance from the U.S. Small Business Association for Wisconsin companies impacted by the coronavirus fallout. 

In a letter to SBA leadership, Evers noted lower consumer activity, sweeping event cancellations, mandatory closures of bars, and restrictions on other restaurants are causing direct economic harm to companies. He noted the hospitality, event hosting, and small retail business sectors are struggling the most during the outbreak.

He specifically identified: Kobussen Buses, which has corporate offices in Kaukauna; Country Kitchen Cafe in Dodgeville; Common Man Tap & Table, based in Ellsworth; Kugels Cheese Mart in Lena; and Earth Rider Brewery in Superior.

According to a federal website, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans program provides up to $2 million in financial assistance to recipients, depending on how badly the company has been affected. They’re often long-term loans with low interest levels.

WEDC chief Missy Hughes says she expects the SBA to have loan applications available for Wisconsin businesses in the next two days or so. She explained the loans are restricted to businesses with 500 employees or fewer.  “We expect the SBA to be inundated with applications,” she said during a conference call today. “This is a nationwide issue. We are working with the SBA to think about what resources are available in Wisconsin, things that have already been in place.”

See the letter:
https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020_03_18-SBA-Request.pdf

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03.23.2020 • State Senate Delayed, Workforce Training Grants for Solar and Wind (AB 237) at Risk

AB 237, which would dedicate up to $1 million in training for wind and solar workers from the Department of Workforce Development ‘s First Forward Program, passed the State Assembly in February and was sent to the State Senate for final approval. A public hearing on SB 218, the companion to AB 237, was held on January 22 and was supported by utilities and numerous other groups with no one registered in opposition. The bill passed in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade on a 5-0 vote, but still needs to be voted on by the full senate.

The Senate was expected to hold its final regular floor session of the year from March 24 to 26 to vote on this and other measures, but due to the Coronavirus crisis the Senate has delayed coming back into session.  The Senate will monitor the public health situation and will likely call themselves back to vote on the issues remaining from this floor period or on emergency measures related to the COVID-19 crisis when they feel it is safe to gather at the Capitol or via electronic voting if necessary.

While the bill has had good momentum and support in both houses of the legislature it appears that a small number of Senators are opposed to the bill and may be able to prevent it from passing.  Contact your State Senator and ask them to support passage of AB 237, without further amendment, before the end of the 2020 legislative floor session!  

Also, a reminder that the DWD has released a new round of funding for the current Fast Forward training grant program.  Applications must be submitted by March 31st.  The DWD is very interested in having the renewable energy industry apply for those grants this year.  See my note below for more information.

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03.23.2020 • Wisconsin Fast Forward Training Grant Applications Postponed Until April 30 

From: DWD MB Wisconsin Fast Forward <WisconsinFastForward@dwd.wisconsin.gov>
Subject: Wisconsin Fast Forward APPLICATION DEADLINES EXTENDED to April 30, 2020
Date: March 20, 2020 at 4:47:08 PM CDT
Reply-To: WisconsinFastForward@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Good afternoon:

The Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Skills Development (OSD) announces that Wisconsin Fast Forward APPLICATION DEADLINES are EXTENDED to April 30, 2020 for “Industry Sectors Worker Training Grants” and “Technical Education Equipment Grants.” 

All other application submission requirements remain unchanged. 

For more information and to apply to either grant program, please see the Grant Program Announcements summarizing program application requirements at http://wisconsinfastforward.com/wff_standard.htm

New Round of Fast Forward Workforce Training Grants Released 

On a very related note, the DWD announced on Friday (see below) that they have $4 million of new Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) worker training grants that are available for all industries, including the solar and wind industries, to provide training for their workforces. This is the same program that our legislation mentioned above would utilize.

The DWD has a fast turn-around on this grant application cycle, so anyone interested should look into it soon. Applications must be submitted by March 31st, grantee’s will be selected on April 23rd and Contracts awarded on April 30th.  Please take a look at the Industry Sector Grant Program outline for all of the details.

The WFF website has additional information and webinars on how to participate in the program on your own.  Also, please let me know If you are interested in applying for the grant program.  I will use that information to work with the DWD administrators, the MREA, technical schools and other potential partners about the best way for us to work together to be able to utilize the grants.

…………………………..

From: WisconsinFastForward@dwd.wisconsin.gov
Subject: Wisconsin Fast Forward Program Now Accepting Applications
Date: February 14, 2020 at 5:44:35 PM CST
To: jim@renewwisconsin.org
Reply-To: WisconsinFastForward@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Thank you for your continued interest in the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) grant program. The Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Skills Development (OSD) is again accepting applications! 

We have redesigned our grant offerings into a single grant opportunity, “Industry Sectors Worker Training Grants.” This grant program is designed to help fund development of innovative and collaborative customized worker training programs.

Key features of this grant program are:

  • Grants are available to all industry sectors and to any size of company;
  • Grant award amounts may range from $5,000 to $400,000;
  • Cash or in-kind match equal to 50% of the grant award amount is required;
  • Grantee must complete training of at least 85% of the contracted number of trainees; and
  • At least 65% of trainees must be placed in positions at the placement partner(s) identified in the grant application that require the skills learned in the provided training.

For more information and to apply, please see the Grant Program Announcement summarizing program requirements. 

A Farewell Letter from Tyler Huebner

A Farewell Letter from Tyler Huebner

Dear RENEW Wisconsin Members and Supporters,

First and foremost, I wish you, your families, and everyone well during this unprecedented time regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.  I urge you to continue following the ever-changing guidelines coming from the Center for Disease Control and your elected officials at all levels to help keep each other safe.

With that said, last week Governor Tony Evers appointed me to be the next Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

With this change, I will be leaving RENEW Wisconsin, and my last day is today.  I started with RENEW in June of 2013, and I want to thank you all for your support of the organization, and of me, since then.

It has been extremely rewarding to be the Executive Director of this organization, and I feel very proud of the organization’s growth and successes during my period here.

Heather Allen will be the organization’s Interim Executive Director starting immediately. Heather has been with the organization for nearly two years, and she will do an excellent job advancing its mission and priorities going forward. You can reach her at heather@renewwisconsin.org or 608-255-4044 extension 1.

In addition to Heather, the rest of the RENEW staff is here to support you however they can.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve this organization and all of you in this role.  It has been a distinct pleasure!

Sincerely,
Tyler Huebner

‘Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit’ is a guidebook for a cleaner future

‘Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit’ is a guidebook for a cleaner future

RENEW Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club have released the Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit: Developing a Clean Energy Plan for Your Community.

Towns, villages, cities, and counties in Wisconsin are building the renewable energy economy. The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit recognizes this leadership in Wisconsin communities and the opportunities to expand these efforts across the state.

As part of its statewide launch, clean energy leaders, including Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, addressed members of the media and the public across the state on March 10th, 2020 to announce the release.

“The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit will help communities develop clean energy plans, which are good for the environment and also can be good for a community’s bottom line,” said State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. “I’ve seen this firsthand as the Chair of a $1.2 billion trust fund, how we’ve helped local governments finance projects such as solar panels that saved taxpayers’ money. I hope communities across the state see us as a partner in their projects to address climate change and lower energy costs.”

Local communities across Wisconsin are eager to develop and implement clean energy plans. Often, they struggle with how to begin from a technical perspective and how to engage their communities.

“Smaller communities often lack the staff to conduct clean energy assessments and make recommendations,” said Jennifer Giegerich, Government Affairs Director for Wisconsin Conservation Voters. “This toolkit is a comprehensive resource for those considering a commitment to clean energy.”

The Wisconsin Clean Energy Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to energy policy options in Wisconsin. The toolkit is a resource designed to help guide communities of varying sizes and with differing resources as they consider, craft, and implement clean energy policies, and how to ensure the greatest return on potential clean energy investments.

“Local governments have heard from their residents; they want to shift to clean, renewable energy,” said Heather Allen, Program Director for RENEW Wisconsin. “But they need resources and technical support to make the transition.  This toolkit offers practical strategies to help communities access affordable clean energy.”

“The Public Service Commission’s Office of Energy Innovation is committed to delivering programs that have a measurable impact on our state, this is why we’ve supported the Energy Independent Communities and will continue to support (with grants and technical assistance like this guide) communities and Tribal Nations on the road to our clean energy future,” Megan Levy, Local Energy Programs Manager & Energy Assurance Coordinator, Office of Energy Innovation, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

The Clean Energy Toolkit provides information to help local communities including:

  • How to understand current state policies and regulations that impact energy use in Wisconsin
  • Guidance on how to commit to clean energy
  • How to build support in the community for clean energy policies
  • How to establish a baseline of current energy use in the community, and how to set benchmarks to track progress toward long-range goals
  • Defines equitable carbon reduction strategies that protect vulnerable communities when making the transition to clean energy, and how to ensure all impacted constituencies have a voice at the decision-making table
  • Provides an overview of various financing options available to local governments to pursue clean energy

“As Wisconsinites demand action on climate change, local communities are answering those calls,” said Elizabeth Ward, Director for Sierra Club Wisconsin.  “We’re glad to provide a resource for those communities as they demonstrate the leadership we’re missing at the federal level.”

The toolkit is available to download at www.wicleanenergytoolkit.com. For additional information, questions, or to request a paper copy of the toolkit, please contact Heather Allen (heather@renewwisconsin.org)

Visit www.wicleanenergytoolkit.com to learn more.

Solar for Good Program Opens Sixth Donation Round to 
Assist Wisconsin Nonprofits in Going Solar

Solar for Good Program Opens Sixth Donation Round to 
Assist Wisconsin Nonprofits in Going Solar

RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has opened its sixth round of donations to help Wisconsin nonprofits install solar power. Grant applications are due Wednesday, May 1, 2020 at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood.

Since 2017, the Solar for Good program has partnered with 75 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to go solar. When completed, these organizations will have installed 91 solar arrays for a total of 3.24 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power nearly 700 households.

Solar for Good is administered by RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy nonprofit organization. Through a generous donation from the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good supplies winning nonprofits with solar panels to reduce the overall cost of installing solar power.

This is Solar for Good’s sixth award cycle, and the program has assisted nonprofits of all types and sizes across Wisconsin. The grantees include 25 houses of worship, 4 environmental conservation groups, 5 animal shelters, 17 schools and education centers, 2 veterans’ groups, and 20 housing providers.

To date, 45 organizations have completed installation of 51 solar arrays. Around $488,000 worth of grants have been dispersed from the Couillard Solar Foundation, and these grants have spurred over $4 million in solar investment across Wisconsin.

By accepting a Solar for Good award, nonprofits agree to promote the environmental and economic benefits of solar power to their communities. Winning organizations educate their members about solar power and are able to showcase their projects’ benefits.

Grant applications for Solar for Good must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020. RENEW Wisconsin plans on holding an additional round of Solar for Good funding in September of 2020.

How to apply for a solar grant

Organizations can learn more and apply at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood. In order to be eligible, the organization must be a registered nonprofit organization located in Wisconsin, be in good financial standing, be ready to install solar, and agree to participate in educating community members about the benefits of solar energy. If approved for a solar panel award, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.

Applications for the Spring 2020 Solar for Good cycle must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020.

For organizations looking at solar power for the first time, technical assistance grants are available to fund a solar site assessment (up to $250) or engineering review (up to $500) for their solar array. These applications will be reviewed separately from the applications for solar panel awards and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

About Solar for Good

RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy. More information can be found at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood/.

About RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization which promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs that support solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles. More information on RENEW’s website: www.renewwisconsin.org

PSC Rides First Wave of Utility-Scale Solar Farms to Fruition

PSC Rides First Wave of Utility-Scale Solar Farms to Fruition

The Public Service Commission today cleared the path for the Badger Hollow solar farm to become a utility-owned generating asset in its entirety. Approved in April 2019 and now under construction, the 300 megawatt (MW) plant in western Iowa County will soon be co-owned by a third utility, Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO). Chicago-based Invenergy is the developer for Badger Hollow and will oversee the construction process until its completion in 2021

As a result of today’s action, WEPCO and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) will jointly acquire a 150 megawatt share of this facility, which should start sending power into the grid by the end of 2020. Shares of the 300 MW solar farm will be divided equally between WEPCO, MGE, and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service.

After reviewing the applicants’ filings, the PSC determined that both MGE and WEPCO need new generating capacity in the near future, and that this 150 MW increment of Badger Hollow would be part of the least-cost expansion plan for both utilities.

RENEW submitted a letter of support for the acquisition, as did the cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Calling attention to the state’s clean energy goals as well as those of the two cities and the utilities that serve them, our comments emphasized the economic and environmental value that Badger Hollow will yield to utility customers as well as to project participants, host communities, and the state as a whole.

The PSC’s approval effectively brings the first chapter of utility-scale solar development in Wisconsin to a close.  Since June 2018, the PSC has reviewed four proposals to build nearly 700 MW of in-state renewable generating capacity, and gave the green light to all of them. The following table summarizes these projects and their relationships to Wisconsin electricity providers.

Project Capacity (in MW) Developer Utility participant(s) Location (by county)
Badger Hollow 300 Invenergy WEPCO (100 MW)

MGE (100 MW)

WPS (100 MW)

Iowa
Two Creeks 150 NextEra Energy WPS (100 MW)

MGE (50 MW

Manitowoc
Point Beach 100 NextEra Energy WPPI Energy Manitowoc
Badger State Solar 149 Ranger Power Dairyland Power Cooperative Jefferson

 

The next wave of solar farms will begin washing through the state regulatory review process this spring. The first one out of the gate is the Paris Solar Farm, located in Kenosha County.  Invenergy’s application to build the 200 MW solar farm was submitted yesterday. Dockets have been opened for several other prospects in Wisconsin.  Listed below are the solar farm projects that we anticipate will be reviewed by the PSC this year.

Project Capacity (in MW) Developer Location (by county) Docket number
Paris 200 Invenergy Kenosha 9801-CE-100
Grant County 200 NextEra Energy Grant 9804-CE-100
Wood County 150 Savion Energy Wood 9803-CE-100