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.
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.”
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 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.”
MADISON, WI – The Solar for Good grant program has awarded over $120,000 in grants and solar panel donations to Wisconsin nonprofit organizations. Thirteen nonprofits will install approximately 460 kilowatts of solar electricity, leading to more than $1.2 million in renewable energy investments in Wisconsin.
The following organizations have been offered Fall 2022 Solar for Good grants to install new solar energy systems:
Chequamegon Humane Association – animal shelter, Ashland
Cinnaire Solutions – affordable housing, Lac du Flambeau
Clyde Community Center – community service, Avoca
Friends of Sauk Prairie Parks & Recreation – community service, Prairie du Sac
Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC – religious, Mequon
Peace Lutheran of Pigeon Falls – religious, Pigeon Falls
People’s United Methodist Church – religious, Oregon
Racine Dominican Eco-Justice Center – community service, Racine
Rotary Club of Greater Portage County – community service, Stevens Point
Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library – community service, Trempealeau
St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church – religious, Madison
WAFER Food Pantry – meal distribution, La Crosse
* One organization has asked to remain anonymous at this time.
The nonprofit grant recipients from the Fall 2022 round represent a wide range of organizations across Wisconsin. Cinnaire Solutions, an affordable housing provider, will install 100 kilowatts of solar at their Forest Edge development in Lac du Flambeau, which will directly provide energy to 40 low-income tenants. The Rotary Club of Portage County is working with students from Mid-State Technical College to install a 7-kilowatt solar system on top of the Salvation Army Hope Center in Stevens Point. And the Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library will install 60 solar panels at the public library in Trempealeau.
“The Solar for Good grant is a transformative addition to this project,” stated Elizabeth Rask of Cinnaire Solutions. “Solar infrastructure is rarely included in affordable housing developments due to cost. With Solar for Good’s support, we will be able to install photovoltaic infrastructure, which will reduce the cost to residents and ensure long-term sustainability.”
The main stipulation of the grant requires each organization to highlight its solar project in the community and educate its members about the benefits of renewable energy.
“This project is a true community collaboration involving the Rotary Club of Greater Portage County, the Salvation Army, Mid-State Technical College, the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin, and the local community of professional solar installers,” said Ben Nusz of the Rotary Club of Portage County. “The completed installation will leave a lasting impact on an organization in great need.”
The 13 nonprofits are a part of Solar for Good’s 11th round of funding. The program has offered solar grants to 161 Wisconsin-based nonprofits since it began in 2017. When all projects are complete and energized, Solar for Good grant recipients will add over 7.6 megawatts of renewable energy to Wisconsin’s electric grid, providing enough electricity to power approximately 1,600 Wisconsin households.
About Solar for Good RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits and houses of worship in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards grants and solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy.
About RENEW Wisconsin RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that 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. www.renewwisconsin.org.
About Couillard Solar Foundation the Couillard Solar Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to further the urgent path to decarbonization for Wisconsin and create a cleaner, safer environment for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status. The Couillard Solar Foundation helps schools and nonprofits gain vital access to solar power by providing solar panels, programs, and education through the Solar for Good and Solar on Schools grant programs. For more information, please visit www.CouillardSolarFoundation.org
December 14, 2022 – SUN PRAIRIE, WI, has been selected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as one of 12 communities nationwide to adopt the innovative solar permitting platform SolarAPP+. Through the program, Sun Prairie is eligible to receive $15,000 if SolarAPP+ is adopted successfully.
“We’re excited to see NREL’s announcement and the fact that residential solar is receiving its time in the spotlight in Sun Prairie,” said Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “This platform will help Wisconsin households remove barriers to accessing solar energy.”
SolarAPP+ is an online platform that instantly issues permits for code-compliant residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) and battery systems. As many consumers and local jurisdictions know, permitting can often slow the process for residential solar and battery installations. Current permitting delays are estimated to increase the cost of solar by $7,000 per project. With the convergence of increased consumer interest in solar installation and federal legislative momentum, clearing this potential bottleneck of long review timelines and complicated permitting applications is imperative. SolarAPP+ provides local governments, installers, and homeowners with a streamlined process to quickly achieve clean power generation from the sun.
Burke O’Neal, co-owner of Full Spectrum, a solar installer based in Madison, WI, is looking forward to Sun Prairie using the SolarApp+ platform to standardize the residential solar permitting process and make it more efficient cost-effective. “Widespread adoption of the program will reduce system costs and speed up installations,” he said. “This means more homeowners will be able to cut their energy bills with a photovoltaic system on their own roof.”
SolarAPP+ has approved more than 10,000 permits across jurisdictions, including successful programs in Arizona, California, Illinois, and Texas. Since SolarAPP+ provided an immediate permit for those communities vetted and determined to be eligible, projects have been installed about two weeks faster under the program.
“The City of Sun Prairie applied to participate in the SolarAPP+ competition to explore the tool and better understand how our permitting process could utilize support from NREL,” said Scott Semroc, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Sun Prairie. “The city will learn more about the potential integration of the SolarAPP+ platform to augment our existing permitting process, potentially reducing permitting time, freeing up Building Maintenance staff capacity, and overall enabling community investment in renewable energy resources by lowering barriers and streamlining the Solar PV permit process for 1-2 family residences. We are excited to participate in this challenge with our peer communities and further explore this opportunity.”
To see the existing residential Solar PV permit application for the City of Sun Prairie, visit the City of Sun Prairie’s website.
In Sun Prairie and across Wisconsin, RENEW Wisconsin continues to work tirelessly to ensure programs like SolarAPP+ and others are helping both new and existing solar customers reap benefits from their rooftop PV systems. RENEW hopes this first step inspires more local governments to use this free platform to cut red tape and reduce costs for every taxpayer and government entity.