Plugged in and Powered Up at Palmyra-Eagle Area School District

“About six years ago, this school district was on the verge of dissolving for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Ryan Krohn, district administrator. “When we doubled down our efforts as a board to stay open, we said we’d invest in innovation and sustainable efforts.”

In the fall of 2022, the district applied for the Clean Bus Program Grant through the EPA, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As they charted their path forward, the leaders of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District had to shift their thinking about the future, which ultimately led to electric buses.

When the school district learned about the EPA grant, they brought the idea of transitioning to electric buses to the school board. Together, district leaders and the board looked at how this change aligned with their goals of safe, healthy, and effective schools.

“We knew it was going to require new thinking, new experiences, and ultimately, we looked at this as a starting spot to transform our system,” Krohn said.

When considering the transition to electric school buses, the district looked at efficiencies that would be gained, not only in terms of the costs from fuel savings but also in terms of health, safety, and the environment. Addressing these aspects required the district to strengthen and build new partnerships with key stakeholders. This included energy utilities, local police, the transportation company they work with, and many other partners. Thanks to the support they received in return, they became the first school district in Wisconsin to start using electric buses to transport their students.

“There’s no way our school district, being led by someone like myself, was going to be able to be able to pull this off (alone),” Krohn said .”My background is not in this.”

The district was ultimately awarded $2 million dollars, enough for six electric school buses. Since receiving the buses, Ryan has been participating in webinars and other events to share the story of Palymra-Eagle’s journey. That journey and the connections they made along the way have led to the district leaders altering how they look at their 10-year capital plan. It has also led to greater engagement with the community.

“Our recent efforts, just because of this, ended up in our community donating money for a new greenhouse,” Krohn said. “We have a strong agricultural program in our school district.”

Both the electric school buses and this new greenhouse serve as educational tools for the students of the Palymra-Eagle School district. As Dr. Krohn said, it also empowers their students and engages them in thinking about the shifts that need to happen for our energy future.

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!

RENEW Wisconsin 2024 Summit Honors Clean Energy Leaders

RENEW Wisconsin 2024 Summit Honors Clean Energy Leaders

January 22, 2024, Madison, Wis. — During its 13th annual Renewable Energy Summit, RENEW Wisconsin, with presenting sponsors Arch Solar and Invenergy, will honor those who made significant and lasting impacts on Wisconsin’s clean energy industry. The Summit will take place Thursday, February 1, 2024, at Monona Terrace in Madison. 

RENEW’s 2024 Summit, titled “Unleashing the Power of Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Potential,” gathers industry experts, policymakers, innovators, and community leaders dedicated to accelerating the transition to clean energy sources. Featured speakers include Tonya Hicks, CEO of Power Solutions, Inc., and Robert Blake, Owner of Solar Bear and Executive Director of Native Sun Community Power Development.

The awards are grouped under three categories:

  • Clean Energy Champion: Maria Drews, Co-owner – Drews Solar
  • RENEW Member of the Year: Full Spectrum Solar – Madison WI
  • Energy Reporting Excellence: Jana Rose Schleis, Enterprise and Investigative Reporter – The Cap Times

The ceremony will conclude with the 2023 Clean Energy Honor Roll, in which RENEW will recognize 13 clean energy projects in Wisconsin that recently commenced operation. Whether on the basis of their productivity, innovativeness, attention to detail, scale, resourcefulness, or efficacy in reducing carbon emissions, these projects showcase the skills and know-how Wisconsin stakeholders bring to the clean energy marketplace.

Clean Energy Honor Roll:

Alliant Energy Solar Portfolio, Dodge, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Rock, Sheboygan, and Waushara Counties
Eight solar PV power plants – 639 megawatts.

  • Badger Hollow, Iowa County

The largest solar PV power plant in Wisconsin – 300 megawatts.

  • Bayfield County, Bayfield County

Microgrid project that integrates solar PV, battery storage, and an existing backup diesel generator.

  • City of Madison, Dane County

Nine (9) behind-the-meter solar PV installations – 585 kilowatts.

  • College of Menominee Nation, Menominee County 

Ground-mount solar PV array – 40 kilowatts.

  • Holy Wisdom Monastery, Dane County 

Net-zero project featuring onsite solar, with battery storage, and ground-source heat pumps.

  • McFarland Public Safety Building, Dane County

Net-zero building featuring onsite solar and ground-source heat pumps.

  • Red Barn Wind Energy Center, Grant County

Wind power plant – 91.6 megawatts.

  • Sheboygan Senior Community, Sheboygan County

Ground-mounted solar array & battery – 198 kilowatts.

  • SolarShare Wisconsin, Juneau County

Two cooperatively-owned solar arrays – 4.5 megawatts.

  • UW-Health Eastpark Medical Center Garage, Dane County

Solar PV parking canopy – 1,032 kilowatts.

  • UW-Parkside, Kenosha County

Ground-mounted solar PV array – 2.1 megawatts.

  • Yahara Solar, Dane County

Largest solar array built for one customer – 17 megawatts.

The 13th Renewable Energy Summit will also feature an exposition hall with nearly 50 exhibitors, breakout sessions, and industry professionals discussing current and future opportunities for advancing clean energy in Wisconsin. Nearly 100 organizations have also voiced their support of renewable energy by sponsoring the summit. For more information on the 2024 Summit program agenda, speakers, sponsors, registration, or press passes, please email Alex Beld (abeld@renewwisconsin.org).

RENEW offers a gift annuity for those 60 and older

RENEW offers a gift annuity for those 60 and older

RENEW Wisconsin has partnered with Madison Community Foundation (MCF) to offer a charitable gift annuity.

What is a charitable gift annuity?

Like other annuities, a charitable gift annuity offers a regular stream of income on an initial investment until your death. However, charitable gift annuities are a form of planned giving and therefore differ from other annuities in several ways.

Here is how the charitable gift annuity works:

  • You make a donation to a nonprofit organization, such as RENEW Wisconsin, and take a partial tax deduction.
  • MCF, as the holder of the annuity funds, invests the funds on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin and pays you (the annuitant) a regular payment until your death. A portion of this income also may be tax-exempt.
  • After your death, the balance of the invested funds goes to the nonprofit organization (RENEW Wisconsin, in this case).

The amount of your tax deduction depends on a number of factors, including your age at the time you establish the charitable gift annuity, the size of your donation, and whether the annuity is for a single person or a couple. You should consult with your tax advisor to determine the specific tax benefits for your situation.

Who can set up a charitable gift annuity?

The gift annuity is available for donors who are 60 and older. MCF requires an initial investment of $10,000 and offers an interest rate on the gift that ranges from 4.3% for a single 60-year-old to 9.3% for a couple who are both 95 and older. (There is no upper limit on investments.)

Whatever is left in the fund at the time of your death will be put into RENEW’s endowment fund with MCF. This fund supports Energy Analysis & Policy (EAP) graduate student interns at UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute who are working at RENEW. The endowment was created by an MCF grant and gifts from EAP alumni and RENEW members a few years ago.

As an example, a 71-year-old, single RENEW member recently established a gift annuity with MCF for RENEW.  He made an initial investment of $10,526. Based on his age and the amount of his initial investment, his annuity earns an interest rate of 5.7%, or $600 a year, which is paid quarterly. He was eligible to take a tax deduction of $3,527, and $460 of the annual income is tax-free.

The gift annuity is ideal for people who are older than 60, looking for a higher interest rate than offered by certificates of deposit (CDs) for their savings, and who want to support a nonprofit, even after death. The charitable gift annuity through MCF is designed to have a residual amount of at least 50% of the original gift for the charity. In 2017, the average amount left for charities from charitable gift annuities using the same rates (those recommended by the American Council on Gift Annuities) was 62% of the initial contribution.

For more information, contact Ismaeel Chartier at RENEW Wisconsin (815.319.5985 or ismaeel@renewwisconsin.org) or David Koehler at MCF (608.232.1763 or dkoehler@madisongives.org).

*interest rates are subject to change
RENEW Wisconsin Community Portal FAQ

RENEW Wisconsin Community Portal FAQ

WHAT IS THE RENEW WISCONSIN COMMUNITY PLATFORM?
The RENEW Wisconsin Community Platform is being launched for our new and renewing business members! The Community Platform launched on November 1, 2023, and gives our business members unprecedented opportunities for industry-specific knowledge, opportunities, and connections.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
The platform creates a space for RENEW business members to connect with each other, expand networks, share stories, and explore industry content that interests you. RENEW’s community platform lets users participate in events, react to our news feed, and join groups they feel closest to. 

WHO CAN JOIN AND HOW?
Any of RENEW’s business members are welcome to join the portal. To join, please navigate to the portal and submit a request to join. From there, the RENEW team will approve or deny the request. When approved, users will be prompted to complete their profile set-up, including adding the business they are associated with, joining the groups that interest them, and exploring the robust community within the platform.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS?
The RENEW Wisconsin Community Platform brings many benefits, including access to all other business members, organizations, industry-specific events, news, conversations, and more! Members can also promote job opportunities, join groups that interest them, and start conversation forums.