RENEW Wisconsin’s 2023 Clean Energy Honor Roll

RENEW Wisconsin selected 13 projects for this year’s Honor Roll. These projects and the organizations involved in them demonstrate leadership, ambition, and climate awareness in their design and use of clean energy.

ALLIANT ENERGY (WPL) SOLAR PORTFOLIO

In 2023, Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility placed in service eight utility-scale solar plants totaling 639 megawatts as part of its Clean Energy Blueprint. By the end of the year, Alliant had finished work on 11 of the 12 projects in its solar portfolio. When the final solar plant is completed this summer, they will together generate approximately 20% of Alliant’s resource mix in Wisconsin, sufficient to power nearly 300,000 homes annually. Many Wisconsin contractors participated in the construction of these projects, including Westphal Electric and Mashuda Contractors.

BADGER HOLLOW

Developed by Invenergy and owned by WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric, Badger Hollow Solar Park is now fully operational. At 300 MW, it is Wisconsin’s largest operating solar power plant, capable of generating 6,000,000 megawatt-hours per year. This is equal to the annual consumption of 90,000 Wisconsin households. Badger Hollow was one of the first utility-scale solar plants approved by the Public Service Commission in 2019. Since then, Invenergy has secured permits for four more solar and storage projects in Wisconsin, totaling 1.35 gigawatts. Two of them are under construction today.

BAYFIELD COUNTY

Bayfield County successfully commissioned the area’s first multi-building, intelligent microgrid on November 10, 2023. The Bayfield County Courthouse and Jail automatically integrate solar PV, battery storage, and backup diesel generation under a single utility meter. The system will provide electric power with or without the electric grid and can optimize economic benefits during normal grid-tied operation through features like demand management and energy arbitrage. The system is not only a first for the area but a first for Wisconsin and the Midwest.

CITY OF MADISON

In the previous decade, the City of Madison set a goal of installing one megawatt of solar capacity by 2020 to supply its own facilities. By the end of 2022, about 1.5 MW of behind-the-meter solar power had been installed, mostly through the City’s Green Power training program. In 2023, the City added 585 kW of solar PV at nine different facilities, including 200 kW apiece at both Streets West and the Nakoosa Rd. Fleet Garage, bringing overall installed PV capacity serving City facilities to more than 2 MW.

COLLEGE OF MENOMINEE NATION

In 2023, Eland Electric partnered with the College of Menomonee Nation to install a 40-kilowatt solar array on the tribe’s reservation in Keshena. In addition to powering a college building, this array kicks off an initiative to help local community members develop the skill set needed for installing and maintaining solar arrays. The Menomonee Nation hopes to build its own reservation-wide solar energy utility service.

HOLY WISDOM MONASTERY

In 2023, Holy Wisdom embarked on an ambitious effort to become an all-electric facility using carbon-free sources onsite to the greatest extent possible. The monastery’s journey to a carbon-free future began with a significant expansion to the onsite PV capacity already in place. Designed by the team of Hoffman Planning and Madison Solar Consulting and installed by Northwind Solar, the new array is built upon single-axis trackers, and its output flows directly into the utility distribution system. When the ground-source heat pump and battery storage system are commissioned later this year, Holy Wisdom Monastery will have effectively achieved carbon neutrality. Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Innovation helped kick off this project with a $575,000 grant awarded in 2021. Local solar developer John Young contributed financing for the solar array.

MCFARLAND PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING

In 2023, the village of McFarland celebrated the opening of its new Public Safety Center, likely the first net-zero municipal building in the state of Wisconsin. With 51 geothermal wells for efficient heating and cooling as well as solar panels that can produce up to 470kW of photovoltaic energy, the facility will produce as much energy onsite as it consumes annually, leading to its designation as a net zero facility. Taking advantage of federal and state clean energy funding (including an Energy Innovation Grant), this $20 million building should pay for itself in year one.

RED BARN WIND ENERGY CENTER

Commissioned in 2023, the 92 MW Red Barn Wind Park was developed by Minnesota-based PRC Wind and built by Allete Clean Energy for the project’s current owners, WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric. Approved by Grant County in 2019, Red Barn is the first project in Wisconsin to have advanced from the proposal stage to full operation under the state’s Wind Siting Rule (PSC 128). The output from this 28-turbine project should equal the annual consumption of 50,000 Wisconsin households.

SHEBOYGAN SENIOR COMMUNITY

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. Designed and installed by Plymouth-based Arch Solar, the installation consists of a 198-kW ground-mount solar array and a battery energy storage component. In addition to a grant from the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation, the project’s financing relied on 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. In addition, Couillard Solar Foundation donated one-third of the 438 panels that make up the array.

SOLARSHARE WISCONSIN

In 2023, SolarShare Wisconsin, a cooperative entity organized under Chapter 185, invested capital provided by members to bring two smaller solar projects in western Wisconsin to fruition. SolarShare Wisconsin partnered with OneEnergy Renewables, which has developed more than 20 smaller-scale solar projects across Wisconsin, to build its first two arrays in Juneau County, totaling 4.5 MW. Now energized, the Lemonweir (lemon•weer) and Webster Creek projects supply electricity to Oakdale Electric Cooperative. SolarShare Wisconsin plans to add another solar project to its portfolio later this year. At a site near Lake Hallie (rhymes with rally) in Chippewa County. Like the first two projects, the Lake Hallie project, also developed by OneEnergy, will be financed with capital provided by SolarShare Wisconsin members.

UW-HEALTH EASTPARK MEDICAL CENTER GARAGE

In 2023, UW-Health partnered with SunPeak and Staff Electric to design and oversee the construction of a 1 MW solar parking canopy on the garage adjacent to its Eastpark Medical Center. This PV canopy not only supports UW-Health’s carbon reduction goals but also provides additional protection to patients and visitors using the facility.

UW-PARKSIDE

UW-Parkside partnered with McKinstry to host a 2.1 MW solar array, similar to the one McKinstry designed for UW-Platteville a year earlier. Built on a parking lot, UW-Parkside’s array is the largest installation in 2023 serving a Wisconsin school or municipality. McKinstry selected Westphal Electric to build the structure and interconnect the PV system to the grid. The electricity generated by the McKinstry/Westphal installation flows directly to UW-Parkside campus buildings.

YAHARA SOLAR

As noted on Dane County’s website, the 17-megawatt Yahara Solar project, completed in 2023, enables Dane County to become not only the first county government in the state to achieve 100% renewable electricity status, but also the 4th county in the nation to reach the 100% goal. Key partners in the project include Alliant Energy (the local utility), SunVest (the project developer and owner), and Pieper Power (the installation contractor). Yahara Solar will produce more than 36 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year — enough to power more than 3,000 Dane County homes.

2024 RENEW Wisconsin Summit Recap!

2024 RENEW Wisconsin Summit Recap!

On Thursday, February 1, RENEW held our 13th annual Renewable Energy Summit, presented by Arch Solar and Invenergy. More than 700 Attendees from across Wisconsin, the Midwest, and even around the globe joined us as we discussed how to unleash the power of Wisconsin’s clean energy potential.

Our amazing cast of panelists, presenters, and guest speakers covered:

  • Emerging Technologies: Delve into the latest breakthroughs in clean energy technologies, from advanced renewables to energy storage and grid innovations.
  • Economic Transformation: Explore how the clean energy sector is reshaping Wisconsin’s economy, generating jobs, and fostering economic growth.
  • Community Power: Hear how community-led clean energy initiatives empower local residents to actively participate in the energy transition.
  • Energy Policy and Legislation: Gain insights into Wisconsin’s evolving energy policies and regulations and hear from policymakers and legal experts about the opportunities and challenges facing the clean energy sector.
  • Rural and Urban Integration: Showcase successful strategies for bridging the urban-rural divide in clean energy adoption and development.
  • Inclusive Sustainability: Focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the clean energy sector to ensure that everyone benefits from its growth.
  • Clean Energy Workforce Development: Focus on building a skilled workforce to meet the demands of a growing clean energy sector and create high-quality jobs.
  • Educational Catalyst: Examine the role of education and research institutions in driving clean energy innovation and workforce development.
  • Resilient Infrastructure: Address the importance of building resilient energy systems capable of withstanding disruptions and extreme weather events.
  • Investment and Financing: Explore investment opportunities and financing models that support the scaling of clean energy projects.
  • Collaborative Partnerships: Encourage collaboration between government, industry, academia, and local communities to foster a thriving clean energy ecosystem.

We were also joined by the likes of Tonya Hicks, Robert Blake, and State Representative Supreme Moore Omokunde. Tonya Hicks shared with attendees not only how we can go about building a diverse workforce, but why it is necessary for the success of the industry. Robert Blake talked about the potential of existing renewable energy technologies and how the industry can go about finding the workers needed to achieve that potential. And Supreme Moore Omokunde closed out the Summit with a reminder that our transition to clean energy should be equitable, and that we must ensure access to renewables for low-income and minority communities.

Attendees also learned that this would be the last RENEW Wisconsin Summit with Michael Vickerman joining us as a RENEW staff member. Though Michael does plan to retire this spring, he has promised that this won’t be the last we hear from him. Michael’s role at RENEW and in Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry cannot be understated and we’re excited to see what he gets up to in his retirement.

We are proud to say that our Summit continues to grow in size and scope. The energy and engagement at this year’s summit were inspiring, and it’s all thanks to the sponsors, volunteers, speakers, attendees, and everyone else who joins us each year to make it happen!

Electric School Buses Arrive in Wisconsin

The Palmyra-Eagle Area School District, in collaboration with Dousman Transport Company, has deployed Wisconsin’s first registered electric school buses. The new buses were funded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program.

The community joined the district for a celebration on Wednesday, October 25, at the Irving L. Young Community Center on the Palmyra-Eagle Middle and High School campus. Palmyra-Eagle Area School District not only has the first registered electric school buses in Wisconsin but is the first district to switch over its entire fleet to electric.

Ryan Krohn, Palmyra-Eagle School District Superintendent, said, “As we look at where we’re going, in our mission statement we talk about the word innovation, and while our school district prides itself on performance excellence, there’s also a time for us to think about the future and sustainability.”

Krohn’s Full Comments:

 

The new superintendent also noted that the buses will help to keep district dollars in the classroom and support learning.

When considering whether to apply for the funding former Palmyra-Eagle School District Gray asked, “What do we save in fuel costs?”

Upon learning that number he determined quickly that it was a done deal.

“We’ve got to do this, we’re talking $50,000 – $60,000 on up in fuel savings and that’s a big number to our district here,” Gray said.

The district received $2.4 million through the Clean Bus Program to acquire all six electric school buses and install charging stations. The Clean Bus Program, which is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, covered the full cost of the buses for the district.

Fourteen additional Wisconsin schools, which also received Clean Bus Program funding, will receive their buses over the next few months.

By giving districts the opportunity to acquire these buses without having to use district dollars they are able to immediately start saving on fuel costs.

During the celebration one bus driver noted that fully charging the bus they were driving only cost $4. For perspective that’s less than a single gallon of diesel at the time of writing.

The implementation of electric buses will lead to healthier communities and smoother, quieter rides for students. Fully charged, the electric buses, manufactured by IC Bus, can travel around 135 miles. This transition to electric school buses means healthier, quieter rides for the approximately 325 Palmyra-Eagle students who currently take the bus to school.

“In all my years of administration I’ve never seen such excitement over yellow buses,” Gray said.

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

On Wednesday, September 20, RENEW Wisconsin held multiple events focused on the benefits electric school buses (ESB) can bring to Wisconsin. The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. RENEW worked with Lion Electric to bring an electric school bus to Wisconsin, promoting the health and financial benefits of clean transportation.

 To start the day, RENEW held private tours of a Lion Electric school bus for Republican Legislators in conjunction with the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum and private tours for Democratic Legislators in conjunction with Wisconsin Conservation Voters. Both events provided a platform for attendees to ask questions about the bus and program to Lion Electric and RENEW Staff.

After the private tours, RENEW and Lion Electric staff opened the electric bus tours to the public, inviting passersby and anyone interested to ride the bus around the Capitol and ask questions of the experts.

RENEW and Lion Electric ended the day at Forest Edge Elementary School, offering the opportunity to tour the bus, hear from students why they want to electrify their school’s transportation, and tour the Forest Edge facility, Wisconsin’s first net zero school!

RENEW was grateful for the opportunity to bring an electric school bus
to the public and private sectors. The EPA announced the opening of
its 2023 Clean School Bus Program on September 28, 2023, which will remain open until January 31, 2024. To learn more or ask questions about this
program, please reach out to us at info@renewwisconsin.org.


Speeches from Forest Edge: 

Why do fifth graders want Electric School Buses? 
Why do Seniors want Electric School Buses?

Electric School Buses – the Clean and Cost-Effective Transportation Solution for Your Community and School District.

Electric School Buses – the Clean and Cost-Effective Transportation Solution for Your Community and School District.

Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, offering clean and healthy rides and reducing operating expenses. However, the upfront cost of $375,000 is a significant barrier. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean School Bus Program allows school districts in all 50 states to replace old diesel buses with new electric buses at no cost.

Last month, I drove a school bus for the first time. Despite not having much experience driving large vehicles, I was pleasantly surprised by how similar it felt to driving my 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. The ride was smooth and quiet, and the regenerative braking system made it easy to control the large bus without needing to use the brakes too often. Overall, it was a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

The electric bus I drove – a LionC electric school bus – can carry 77 students for up to 155 miles on a single charge. This bus was fresh off the assembly line at the new LION assembly plant in Joliet, IL. The plant is located about 90 miles south of the Wisconsin border and is North America’s largest electric school bus assembly plant. The plant opened earlier this year and will support 1,400 Clean Energy Jobs and produce 20,000 fully electric school buses and electric trucks per year.  

Why Clean School Buses? 

Every day, more than 25 million American children rely on school buses for safe transport to and from school, collectively covering over three billion miles each year. However, the exhaust from these buses can harm human health, particularly for children whose lungs are still developing. To address this issue, the Clean School Bus Program provides rebates and grants to replace existing diesel and gas-powered buses with cleaner models. This initiative aims to improve air quality as well as the safety and well-being of our students, their bus drivers, and the surrounding communities.

Electric school buses are both cleaner and cheaper to operate than diesel buses. On average, diesel buses use 6 miles per gallon [mpg], while electric buses boost that efficiency to an equivalent of 17 mpg. Electric school buses can save more than $170,000 on fuel and maintenance throughout their lifespan. Furthermore, Wisconsin’s lack of petroleum production means that switching to electric buses can keep our energy dollars in the state, support local jobs, and contribute to the state’s general economic growth.

Wisconsin Schools are Going Electric!

Last fall, 15 school districts in Wisconsin took advantage of the Clean School Bus Program and were awarded 65 electric school buses scheduled to be delivered by October 2024. The EPA is now preparing for a second round of rebates, which will be announced this fall. Schools and transportation contractors can apply online for Clean School Bus rebates, which are awarded through a lottery system. Priority is given to rural, tribal, and high-need school districts. Those that qualify can receive up to $395,000 to purchase a bus and charging station in exchange for an older diesel bus for up to 25 buses. The list of prioritized school districts can be found here.

You can sign up for updates on the Clean School Bus Program and see the list of 2022 award recipients. For more information on electric school buses, route planning assistance, and applying to the EPA’s program, contact RENEW at info@renewwisconsin.org.

RENEW Wisconsin at the 32nd MREA Energy Fair

RENEW Wisconsin at the 32nd MREA Energy Fair

Last weekend, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) hosted the 32nd Annual Energy Fair, bringing people together to learn about sustainability and clean energy, connect with others, and take action toward a sustainable future. The Fair featured workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. 

RENEW staff presented some compelling workshops and you can download slides from their presentations below.

Zero Carbon by 2050—A Path for Wisconsin

Andrew Kell, RENEW Policy Director, discussed zero-carbon goals and ongoing planning efforts in Wisconsin. Andrew also was a guest on a live podcast, focused on Wisconsin’s Net Zero future. 

MadiSUN Workforce Training

Lauren Cohen, RENEW Program Coordinator, held a workshop regarding career growth opportunities within Wisconsin’s clean energy industry, focusing primarily on opportunities within the solar industry. 

Vehicle-to-Grid: Opportunities and Challenges

Francisco Sayu, RENEW Emerging Technology Director, discussed how Vehicle-to-Grid technology unlocks the energy stored in electric vehicles and opens opportunities for energy trading, energy management, and grid resiliency. 

Farming Sunshine: Solar and Ag Land Use 

Nolan Stumpf, one of RENEW’s Interns, presented a session regarding solar farms and the opportunities and challenges of using the land for farming purposes and advancing clean energy. 

Can Clean Energy Overcome Local Opposition? 

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Clean Energy Deployment Manager, discussed the opposition clean energy faces at the local level and how to overcome those barriers.