Supporting Solar Access for Wisconsin’s Low- and Moderate-Income Families

Supporting Solar Access for Wisconsin’s Low- and Moderate-Income Families

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the recipients of the Solar for All grants, with $124 million in funding awarded to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association (MTERA). This influx of resources will help to accelerate our state’s clean energy transition.

Solar for All will increase access to renewable energy for around 15,000 Wisconsin homes, including single-family, multi-family, or community solar projects. The grant awarded to WEDC will bring $62,450,000 to the state of Wisconsin, this historic investment will increase solar access for Wisconsinites across both rural and urban communities.

This down payment on our state’s clean economy signals a new day for renewable energy solutions for all Wisconsinites. RENEW applauds this critical step toward increased solar access and how it ensures every community can participate and benefit from clean energy. Communities across the state will experience reduced reliance on fossil fuels and expanded clean energy job creation as we build a healthier, more equitable clean energy future.

More on Solar for All:

• The Solar for All competition, which was created by the Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), will expand the number of low-income and disadvantaged homes primed for residential solar investment.

• Wisconsin is one of 60 states, territories, Tribal governments, municipalities, and eligible nonprofits awarded grants to create and expand low-income solar programs that provide financing and technical assistance, such as workforce development, to enable low-income and disadvantaged households and communities to deploy and benefit from residential solar.

• The Solar for All competition will provide more than $7 billion nationwide to increase access to affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy for millions of low-income households.

RENEW congratulates Governor Tony Evers, WEDC, and MTERA on their work to ensure our state continues to bring renewable energy commitments to our state. This funding will help advance environmental justice efforts by enabling low-income households to access clean, resilient solar power, lowering energy costs, and creating good jobs in underserved areas. 


RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman to Retire After Three Decades

RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman to Retire After Three Decades

After a long career at RENEW Wisconsin, advocating for renewable energy across the state, Michael Vickerman has announced his retirement effective April 20, 2024. Vickerman’s professional legacy spans over 33 years and demonstrates his tireless commitment to Wisconsin’s clean energy transition.

Vickerman got his start at RENEW after responding to a classified ad for a limited-term program coordinator at the nonprofit. For eight years, he served as the sole employee of the organization. He was pivotal in shaping renewable energy policy and fostering collaboration among industry stakeholders.

“No individual has done more to advance renewable energy in the Badger state than Michael Vickerman,” said Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “He has ushered advocates and professionals through every Wisconsin clean energy challenge and success over the past thirty years. His knowledge, patience, humor, and guidance are unmatched and will be missed at RENEW.”

During his three-decade stint with RENEW, Vickerman held several positions within the organization, serving as Executive Director, Program and Policy Director, and most recently, Clean Energy Deployment Manager.

“Though we’ve had our ups and downs, renewable energy continues to grow in ways that benefit farmers, businesses, communities, and taxpayers,” Vickerman said. “During the early years, it would not have been possible to foresee a future when every power plant in Wisconsin energized in one year would be powered by sunshine and wind energy. But that’s exactly what happened in 2023. Would that have been possible without RENEW’s advocacy over the years and decades? I doubt it.”

“As RENEW has expanded from a single employee to a 13-person staff, our ability to influence and shape state energy policy continues to grow,” Vickerman said. “It will be sad to part company with such a talented group of colleagues, but I have every confidence in their capacity to meet the challenges that lie ahead.”

Vickerman will remain connected to the nonprofit as a member of the board of directors. In his new-found free time, he plans to raise a new puppy with his wife Pamela, garden, and ride his bike around Madison while sustaining his connection to Wisconsin’s renewable energy community.

Curative Connections Celebrated Completion of 280-kW Solar Project

Curative Connections Celebrated Completion of 280-kW Solar Project

On Thursday, April 20, Curative Connections held a ceremony dedicated to their new 280-kilowatt solar array. Curative Connections aims to help people reach their goals for independence by providing essential services to older adults and those with disabilities.

This solar system was installed by Eland Electric and is projected to offset 42-46% of the organization’s electricity usage. “We had a great experience with this project, from design and engineering all the way to commissioning,” said Jesse Michalski, Project Manager at Eland Electric. “This project was a little unique in that we had limited space and were trying to maximize the energy output of a solar array, and through the use of bi-facial modules, we were able to achieve a design that fits the customer’s goals.”

The economic implications of this array for Curative Connections are wide-reaching. The newly installed solar array is projected to bring the organization $50,000 of annual savings. “As a nonprofit, this is critical as we can now redirect these savings to support for our programs and the thousands of members
we serve each year,” said Jeanne Stangel, President and CEO of Curative Connections.

This solar installation is momentous as the organization celebrates an impressive milestone. “Curative Connections is proud to cut the ribbon on our solar project as it shines light upon another reason to celebrate our 75th anniversary year,” continued Stangel.

The project was funded largely by a $125,000 Office of Energy Innovation grant and financial support from Focus on Energy. Curative Connections also received a $10,000 grant from Solar for Good, a RENEW Wisconsin program run in partnership with the Couillard Solar Foundation.

“This solar project is a testament to the power of partnership between mission-driven nonprofits and clean energy advocates,” said Lauren Cohen, Program Coordinator with RENEW Wisconsin. “Solar for Good’s success is a direct result of organizations like Curative Connections leading the way towards a more sustainable future for Wisconsin and beyond.”

In addition to their grant funding, Curative Connections worked with Legacy Solar Cooperative to partner with a tax sponsor to take advantage of tax credits, which were not yet available to nonprofit organizations at the time of installation.

“We are grateful for the support we received from foundations, federal and state grants, and community partners,” continued Stangel. “This is a collaborative effort of a commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.”

With 75 years of serving the public under their belt, the money saved from this solar installation will allow Curative Connections to continue its mission to ensure that everyone receives the care they deserve. This project demonstrates the organization’s commitment to this mission and the environment, which others can look to and hopefully be inspired to embark on a similar path.

A New Chapter: Trempealeau Library Harnesses the Power of the Sun with New Solar Installation

A New Chapter: Trempealeau Library Harnesses the Power of the Sun with New Solar Installation

On Saturday, April 15, the Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library held a solar dedication ceremony for their 32-kilowatt, newly constructed solar array. Scenically located on the Mississippi River and the bluffs of the Driftless Region, the Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library is dedicated to serving the rural communities of Trempealeau by offering free and equitable access to lifelong learning and enrichment.

The project, installed by Ethos Green Power, consists of 60 solar panels and is projected to offset 100% of the library’s electric needs. “This investment will save thousands in tax dollars that can be repurposed for other community needs,” said Alicia Leinberger of Ethos Green Power Cooperative. “In just a few years, the savings will offset the initial investment, providing decades of free electricity harvesting sunshine on the library roof.”

The library received over $83,000 in grants and incentives to install this solar array. Among these, the Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library received an EBSCO Solar Grant, a program that funds library solar installations.

The Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library was also awarded a panel grant from Solar for Good, an initiative provided by RENEW Wisconsin and the Couillard Solar Foundation to expand solar power within the state. The grant provided 30 of the 60 solar modules necessary for the project. “The solar grants and incentives we received will help the library purchase less power generated by fossil fuels, allowing our library to be financially and environmentally sustainable, all while acting as a catalyst to inspire change in the community,” said Jessica Schoonover, Library Director.

The library has laid out several opportunities for the community to interact with and be inspired by this solar array. “The very visible solar panels and the monitoring available on the website make it easy for the public to get curious,” continued Leinberger.

This solar installation will be an example to the Trempealeau community, showing its residents the economic and environmental benefits of adopting sustainable practices. It is just one aspect of a new initiative the library is adopting called SWML Renew, aimed at beginning sustainable, energy-conserving changes to its footprint. “We are working on doing our part to develop, model, educate, and encourage our community to live mindfully of our environment,” continued Schoonover. “We hope to encourage our neighbors to consider energy-efficient ways they can Renew their homes and businesses to make a more resilient future for Trempealeau.”

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.


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.”