Last fall, I was asked to help promote a series called Names behind the Numbers, profiling Wisconsin’s renewable energy workers. One of the interviews featured April Smith (pictured above), a construction worker on the Quilt Block Wind Farm in Darlington, WI. In describing her work she said “All the people, the company, and the community — everyone looked out for each other” and I thought “that’s Wisconsin.”
I grew up in the northeast corner of Iowa County, in the Wisconsin River valley in a small town called Arena. My grandmother cleaned houses, my dad was a mechanic turned landscaper, and my uncles worked road construction. I was surrounded by the grit and community that defines the Wisconsin work ethic; I was taught to work hard, work together, and get the job done.
Now I am one of Wisconsin’s clean energy workers. I joined the RENEW Wisconsin staff a year ago with an untraditional background: an arts education, a theater and music career, and eight years of marketing for a general contractor in Chicago. I knew little about renewable energy, but I cared about the environment and wanted to help build a cleaner future for my children.
According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 US Energy and Jobs Report Wisconsin, over 67,000 people are already working in clean energy, and renewable energy job growth is six times faster than overall job growth in the state. Wisconsin has the opportunity to increase renewable energy substantially in the coming decades, and create tens of thousands of jobs along the way.
After April’s story was published, I was able to attend the Quilt Block dedication and ribbon cutting in Darlington, WI. I witnessed firsthand a community (comprised of local landowners, businesses, educators, government officials, and EDP Renewables) working together to build a 98 MW wind farm, enough to power 25,000 Wisconsin homes with clean energy. This project created approximately 100 full-time jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs.
I recently attended an outdoor BBQ at the local office of the proposed Badger Hollow Solar Project in Monfort, WI. This was an opportunity for local landowners to get together and see which of their neighbors would be growing a solar crop. There, I met Tracy Fillback, the local liaison hired to address questions and concerns from the landowners and the community as this project progresses. She spent the last few years at home raising her children and now she’s starting a new chapter as part of of the Badger Hollow Solar project. She is another example of renewable energy job opportunity in Wisconsin.
Wind developers are scoping out new projects in rural parts of the state and in recent weeks two proposals for large scale solar farms have joined Badger Hollow Solar at the review stage of development. While we can’t predict the exact number of jobs this will mean for Wisconsin, these companies and workers will spend millions of dollars on locally-sourced gravel, concrete, construction supplies, food, lodging and other services. Increasing renewable energy is one of the best economic development moves Wisconsin could make, particularly for its rural communities.
Wisconsin’s renewable energy workers are building a cleaner future for our children and they’re doing it the Wisconsin way; with tenacity, community, and hard work. Renewable energy can support our local economies and be as homegrown as the crops in our fields, if our communities can continue to embrace the possibilities.
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program is issuing grants to 15 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to install new solar electric systems. The grants total over $145,000 and will fund 10% to 20% of each organization’s project. The overall value of these new solar arrays is set to exceed $1.2 million.
Planned for installation over the next twelve months, these projects expect to add over 460 kilowatts (kW) in new solar power. The size of each project will vary based on the needs of the organization.
This is the second round of Solar for Good grants, following Fall 2017’s inaugural opportunity when sixteen organizations were offered grants. The program is primarily funded by solar philanthropists Cal & Laurie Coulliard of Deerfield through their Coulliard Solar Foundation.
“Nonprofit organizations are leaders, gathering places, and signs of hope across our Wisconsin communities. By helping them produce their own solar energy, we are empowering them to showcase solar energy’s capabilities and continue their leadership role for the people they serve. We are very proud of these nonprofits and can’t wait to see their shining solar projects get completed!” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.
The following organizations have been offered Solar for Good grants to install new solar electric systems:
Alice’s Garden, community and urban farm, Milwaukee
Community Homestead Inc, special needs organization, Osceola
First Unitarian Society of Madison, house of worship, Madison
Heartland Housing Inc., community housing, Milwaukee
Heartland Montessori School, early childhood education, River Falls
Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, outdoor education program, Menasha
Memorial United Church of Christ, house of worship, Fitchburg
Quasimondo Physical Theatre, arts education and training, Milwaukee
St. Bridget Catholic Church, house of worship, River Falls
VFW Post 8483, veterans service organization, Madison
Walnut Way Conservation Corp, environmental conservation organization, Milwaukee
Worldbuilders Inc., humanitarian organization, Stevens Point
Two organizations have asked to remain anonymous at this time.
Solar for Good plans to issue another round of grant funding in fall 2018. Individuals who want to learn more about the program can visit our website.
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, and geothermal energy. More information is available on RENEW’s website.
I had a great visit to Washington, DC the week of March 12th for a conference on Energy Policy hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). While there, I also made time to visit Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. I was able to give our elected officials the latest information on the exciting growth of renewable energy in the last few years and the even faster growth that we expect renewables to experience in the future, especially in Wisconsin.
The ACORE Policy Summit was a great opportunity for me to learn about the renewable energy issues happening in Washington and around the country. Speakers included Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), FERC Commissioner Robert Powelson, and Department of Energy Under Secretary Mark Menezes. I also met with many trade association leaders representing renewable energy such as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as well as corporations who are leaders in the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency such as Amazon.
Among the hot topics I discussed with the congressional offices were the federal Omnibus spending bill and the significant cuts that were proposed to the Department of Energy in their renewable energy budget and funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e). (In the final Omnibus Bill deal signed by the President on March 22nd, congress not only restored the budgets of both programs, but increased them significantly!).
While visiting, I also thanked the following members of the Wisconsin delegation who signed a letter encouraging the EPA to approve applications for biogas-based electricity to qualify as a renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program: Congressmen Mark Pocan (D-2nd), Ron Kind (D-3rd), Glenn Grothman (R-6th), Sean Duffy (R-7th) and Mike Gallagher (R-8th). This “electric pathway” would greatly assist many Wisconsin farmers to continue responsibly managing their manure and preventing runoff and ground water issues while creating renewable energy. Senator Tammy Baldwin is working hard to put together a Senate version of this letter to the EPA and I would encourage everyone to contact Senator Ron Johnson and encourage him to sign onto the letter as well.
Overall, it was a very productive and educational trip! The overriding theme that came out of the trip is that renewable energy is just now hitting its stride. It is going to get even less expensive, more reliable, grow faster and become an even more important component of the US and world energy mix!
The image above shows me with Congressman Glenn Grothman following our meeting.
Monday March 12, 2018, Madison.
For More Information
Katherine Klausing, RENEW Wisconsin
608-255-4044 x5, 614-406-1105
Solar for Good, an initiative from the renewable energy advocates at RENEW Wisconsin, will offer grant funding this spring to assist nonprofit organizations with installing solar panels on their facilities.
The program is funded through a donation from philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard of Deerfield.
“The solar energy boom is having a positive impact throughout Wisconsin, from keeping more of our energy dollars in our pockets to protecting our natural resources,” said Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager at RENEW Wisconsin. “That’s why we want to help local nonprofit organizations and houses of worship, who are working every day to improve our communities, join the solar movement. By installing their own solar PV systems, these organizations will be able to generate their own clean, renewable energy, save money on their utility bills, and reinvest the energy cost savings back into their work. “
This spring, Solar for Good will award a total of $110,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and houses of worship to assist them in installing solar photovoltaic systems. The grant program will fund up to 20% of the cost of a solar array, with a grant cap of $10,000 for solar arrays sized less than 75 kW and a grant cap of $20,000 for arrays 75 kW and above.
Solar for Good will also offer small grants for technical assistance, including professional solar site assessments and engineering services, to get projects started and see them through to success. The program plans to offer both a spring and a fall grant cycle each year and be sustained for three years or more. RENEW Wisconsin and Solar for Good aim to use the grants to help organizations going solar to spread the word about their solar investments and educate their communities about the benefits of solar.
In 2017, the program offered grants to 16 nonprofit organizations across Wisconsin, including a food pantry, a shelter for homeless veterans, and several houses of worship. When all the projects are completed, the grants will have supported over $1.2 million in solar investment and added 573 kilowatts (kW) of new solar electric projects to the state.
“We were thrilled to have received a Solar for Good Grant,” said Barbara Roder. Her congregation at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Fond du Lac was one of the 2017 grantees. “This incentive was just what we needed to move us from thinking about solar to doing it.”
How to Apply
Organizations can learn more and apply HERE.
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 grant, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.
Applications for this round of funding must be received by Monday April 9, 2018. Decisions and funding announcements will be made by Wednesday April 15, 2018.
For organizations looking at solar 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 grants for solar installation and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.