Last weekend, the MREA Energy Fair brought people together to learn about clean energy and sustainability, connect with others, and take action towards a sustainable future. The Fair featured workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. The Energy Fair is the longest-running event of its kind in the nation and RENEW Wisconsin was excited to be a part of it!
RENEW staff presented some compelling workshops and you can download slides from their presentations below.
Clean Energy Communications
Jodi Jean Amble, RENEW’s Communications Director, presented a workshop on clean energy communications. She discussed 6 tenets of creating effective communications messages, shared insights from clean energy communications polling, and showcased some of RENEW’s recent campaigns.
Community-Led Clean Energy Action
Michael Vickerman, RENEW’s Policy Director, presented a workshop focused on communities across Wisconsin that are taking action to advance renewable energy in meaningful ways. Michael’s presentation surveys the specific action steps taken by individual municipalities to procure new supplies of solar energy and integrate carbon reduction goals into their own operations, including local transit options.
Solar Farms – Economic and Agricultural Benefits
Heather Allen, RENEW’s Program Director, presented a workshop on solar farms featuring Bob Bishop, a local farmer from Iowa County renting his land out for the 300 Megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Farm. They talked about the economic, environmental and agricultural benefits of solar farms for rural communities. This workshop explored how to address frequently asked questions including those related to land use, food production, visual changes, and community values.
Solar for Good – Helping Wisconsin Nonprofits
Sam Dunaiski, RENEW’s Program Manager, presented information on the Solar for Good program including how the program got started and how it assists nonprofits in going solar. The workshop also featured a panel of nonprofits and solar installers that participated in the program. Panelists were Joe Lenarz (Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School), Kelsey Parry (Heckrodt Wetland Preserve), Angie Kochanski (Arch Electric), and Doug Stingle (North Wind Renewable Energy).
Electric Vehicle Toolkit
Jane McCurry, RENEW’s Program Manager focusing on electric vehicles, presented a workshop for people interested in seeing EV adoption advance in the Midwest. The discussion included charging infrastructure, influencing policy, the benefits of driving electric, and why EVs are good for the community, state, and country.
“I worry about my children and grandchildren and not leaving a mess for them. Having something sustainable for them. I think solar is a great idea. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.” These are the words of Mike, a navy veteran, and former police officer who lives in the James A. Peterson Veteran Village in Racine, WI. It’s a complex of 15 tiny homes and a community center that is now powered by the sun.
Mike spent 6 years in the navy and traveled all over the world. After his service, he went to school and then joined the police force in Chicago. “I spent 20 years in law enforcement. You’ve been doing something so long. Then I lost my wife, my house. I was homeless when I found out about Veterans Outreach in Racine. Jeff and Shannon welcomed me in.”
Mike was a yeoman in the navy, performing administrative and clerical work. This experience landed him a job in the Veterans Outreach office. According to Mike, Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin serves about 300 veterans per week in the food pantry. They also provide clothing, transportation (when needed), and tiny homes for veterans in the back. The tiny houses provide residents with a bed, television, and a small storage space. “You have to come out of there for the bathroom, shower, and the best kitchen in the world!” Mike said. “A lot of guys want to try to isolate, but you have to come in and you start talking. It’s good that you have to leave that cabin. You get up, take a shower, check your email, and slowly get yourself back into it.”
Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin is different than a shelter. It’s a recovery program offering meals, classes, and connections. The organization helps veterans find jobs and offers financial classes and community meetings. “They are good people,” Mike said. “They don’t get a lot of money, but they seldom say ‘no’ to anybody.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, almost 38,000 Veterans are experiencing homelessness. While this number declined by 5% between 2017 and 2018, it’s still a distressing statistic. This is what inspired Jeff Gustin to co-found the center in 2013. “The whole idea that someone puts a uniform on and ends up homeless is crazy. Our nation is better than that,” Jeff said.
Walden Middle and High School, a school that focuses on the environment and sustainability, approached Veterans Outreach about helping them put solar on their SC Johnson Community Center. The Walden High School students raised over $20,000 for the solar project and the students’ efforts inspired a $10,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. They also received a $10,000 Solar for Good grant, and were awarded a Focus on Energy prescriptive grant. Veterans Outreach paid for the rest of the project with their own funding, costs they plan to recover through offset electricity bills.
“It took very little to get this off the ground for us. The school approached us about it. We weren’t in a position to do this ourselves. We were just getting residents moved in and they ran with it. We had very little we had to do on our end and we’re very grateful.” Jeff said. The nearly 20 kilowatt array, installed by Arch Electric, is expected to save the organization almost $4,000 in annual utility costs. That’s money that the Veterans Outreach can put towards their mission. “For the person that does the bills. It’s huge for us,” Jeff said.
Jeff, Mike, and the rest of the Veterans Outreach team are still learning about solar and seeing the actual cost savings at the end of the year may inspire them to look into other solar projects. They just bought two new buildings to accommodate a larger food pantry to serve their clients. “I’m glad we’re lowering our carbon footprint. This is our future,” Jeff said. “One day I might go back to the high school and ask them if they’re ready for round two!”
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program will issue 36 grants to Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to install new solar-electric systems. Altogether, these grants will total over $445,000 and will lead to more than $4.5 million in new solar investment. The new solar arrays, planned for installation over the next twelve months, will add 2.13 megawatts (MW) of new solar power to Wisconsin’s electric mix.
This round of funding featured a diverse group of awardees from every part of Wisconsin. The winning projects include:
- Beloit College will convert a former coal-fired power plant into a carbon-neutral student activity center, complete with solar electric and geothermal heating.
- Sawyer County Housing Authority will install solar arrays on 6 multi-family, low-income housing facilities, which will directly offset their residents’ utility bills
- Primates Inc, a sanctuary for retired primates from the research and film industry, plans to construct a 30-kilowatt array for their habitats near Westfield.
RENEW’s fall 2018 funding period builds on the success of Solar for Good’s previous rounds in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. During the first and second funding rounds, RENEW issued over $200,000 in grants, helping 23 Wisconsin-based nonprofits invest over $1.67 million in new solar projects.
“Solar for Good has reached new heights,” said Heather Allen, Program Director for RENEW Wisconsin. “With these 36 grants, Solar for good will generate $4.5 million in new solar projects. This will help nonprofits across the state lower their energy costs, inspire their communities, and promote a cleaner, healthier Wisconsin.”
The following organizations have been offered Solar for Good grants to install new solar electric systems:
Abinooji Aki, provides education on Native American values/teachings, Hayward
Attic Angel Place, a senior living campus and assisted living facility, Middleton
Beaver Dam Family Ice Arena, community ice-skating facility, Beaver Dam
Beloit College, liberal arts college, Beloit
Bethel Horizons, a retreat center and art education campus, Dodgeville
Blackhawk Evangelical, house of worship, Middleton
Christ Lutheran Church, house of worship, Spring Green
Housing Authority of Milwaukee, low-income housing provider, Milwaukee
Humane Society of Burnett County, safe haven for stray/unwanted animals, Webster
Juda School District, public education, Juda
Friends of Lawton Memorial Library, public library and learning center, La Farge
Literacy Network, adult reading, writing, and computer education facility, Madison
Madison Audubon Society, wildlife habitat protection, education, & advocacy, Madison
NeighborWorks Green Bay, low-income housing provider, Green Bay
Northland Lutheran High School, private education, Kronenwetter
Operation Fresh Start, adult education and job skill training facility, Madison
Oregon Ice Arena, community ice-skating facility, Oregon
Primates Inc, a sanctuary for primates retired from research and film industry, Westfield
Random Lake School District, public education, Random Lake
Redeemer Lutheran Church, house of worship, Milwaukee
Redeemer City Church, house of worship, Fitchburg
Sawyer County Housing Authority, low-income housing provider, Sawyer County
Sisters of Saint Francis, religious order, Green Bay
Solon Springs School District, public education, Solon Springs
St. Dennis Congregation, house of worship, Madison
Washburn Elementary and High Schools, public education, Washburn
Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ, house of worship, Deforest
Two organizations have asked to remain anonymous at this time.
The Solar for Good program is primarily funded by philanthropists Cal and Laurie Coulliard of Deerfield. Solar for Good grants fund up to 20% of an organization’s solar installation. RENEW plans to issue another round of grant-funding in spring 2019. To learn more, please visit the Solar for Good website.
This week, RENEW wrapped up our third round of Solar for Good funding. We are happy to announce that this will be our most successful funding cycle to date!
RENEW received applications from 39 nonprofits and we plan on funding as many as 36 projects. Altogether, these grants will result in as much as $4.5 million in new solar investment, totaling 2.13 MEGAWATTS of clean, renewable, solar power.
This round of funding also featured our most diverse group of applicants to date. We approved solar grants for organizations ranging from K-12 schools to low-income housing to animal shelters. Proposals came in from across the state, from Washburn to Milwaukee, Dodgeville to Green Bay, and nearly everywhere in between.
Some of the nonprofits who will receive grants upon successfully completing their solar projects include:
- Beloit College plans on converting a former coal-fired power plant into a carbon-neutral student activity center, complete with solar panels and geothermal heating
- The Sisters of St. Francis in Green Bay will be adding an additional 98 kilowatts of solar power to the existing array at their motherhouse
- Sawyer County Housing Authority will install solar arrays on 6 multi-family, low-income housing facilities, which will directly offset their residents’ utility bills
This fall 2018 round builds on the Solar for Good success from prior rounds in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. During the first and second funding rounds, RENEW issued over $200,000 in grants, helping 23 Wisconsin-based nonprofits invest over $1,677,000 in new solar projects. These projects totaled 730 kilowatts…enough to power approximately 150 homes.
RENEW would like to extend our gratitude to Cal and Laurie Couillard, founders of the Couillard Foundation which funds Solar for Good. Their generosity and devotion to renewable energy has spearheaded the opportunity to expand solar in tremendous ways. Through Solar for Good, solar power in Wisconsin is developing incredible momentum that we plan on build on in the coming years.
On Saturday, September 29th, fifty bike riders enjoyed our sixth annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour! This year’s tour was in Milwaukee and we saw solar, wind, and biogas renewable technologies up close.
The day started off cool, but as the sun rose the temps came along with it. Ingeteam hosted our morning breakfast and registration, and we learned about their factory and US headquarters which builds wind generators and supports solar and wind projects nationwide.
Next we visited the City of Milwaukee’s Public Library, where the City’s Elizabeth Hittman regaled our crowd with the City’s plans to install 1.1 megawatt of solar across six City buildings. The Library will get a 121 kilowatt solar PV system as part of this project.
A block away, we visited the largest vertical solar PV wall in the U.S. according to project developer Convergence Energy. The project is at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Director Ellen Censky motivated our crowd with her story of getting sustainability done!
Next, we rode trails north to Shorewood where we saw solar on homes from a recent solar group buy through the City’s Milwaukee Shines Programand the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
Then we headed to the lake, where we ate lunch at the Discovery World which includes geothermal heating and cooling, which ride sponsor HGA Architects helped integrate into the building.
Have you ever had solar-powered pizza delivered by an electric car? We did! Our lunch was delicious and provided by Bounce Milwaukee. Bounce uses solar electricity to power solar ovens that cook pizzas, which are then delivered by electric cars. Ice cream was also provided by Cedar Crest Ice Cream.
After lunch, we visited the Port of Milwaukee’s wind turbine which is close to producing 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and is coming up on six years of operation.
Then, two non-profit organizations showed how broadly solar has grown. Mike Cornell of Arch Electric showed off their project at the School Sisters of St. Francis, which we believe is the largest solar project for a religious order in Wisconsin. The solar panels at this project are made in Jackson, Mississippi, by Seraphim.
Escuela Verde was our second-to-last stop, where Catie Malcheski of Sunvest described the school’s vision and actions to get solar. The panels had been donated by Helios when it was making panels in Milwaukee a few years ago, but the school needed to raise the money to complete the installation. RENEW’s Solar for Good program was a key contributor to making the project happen!
Our last stop was at the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s Biodigester, which is located next to the casino. The Biodigester takes food waste from the casino and other locations and turns it into biogas, which is then used to create electricity. Waste heat is also piped to the casino in the winter. Charlie Opferman of the Potawatomi Community told us how the biodigester is basically a big stomach in action.
We finished up by having a beer and snacks at City Lights Brewing Company.
We also once again enjoyed excellent financial support from our sponsors, RENEW Wisconsin members, and friends and family of our bike riders who donated to support the riders. John & Mary Frantz offered to match up to $15,000 in donations towards our ride, and we exceeded our goal again! All event proceeds will support RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.
Thank you once again to all of our riders, sponsors, and supporters!
More Solar Energy for Wisconsin Nonprofits
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program today opened its third application process with approximately $100,000 in grants available for mission-driven nonprofit organizations across Wisconsin seeking to install solar power.
The grants assist nonprofits in funding the cost of a clean, renewable solar power project. Smaller grants can also provide technical assistance, including professional solar site assessments and engineering services, needed to get solar projects off the ground.
Solar power is very popular with mission-driven nonprofits because it aligns with their goals to improve people’s well-being and create a better future. The projects also help nonprofits save money on energy costs.
Through the first two rounds of this Solar for Good, successful solar projects have been supported for organizations of faith, those serving human needs, groups protecting special places, and more. The first two rounds occurred in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, and so far, 25 solar projects have been awarded grants, and 12 projects are already completed.
“We are very pleased to announce our third round of Solar for Good funding to help more Wisconsin nonprofits take advantage of solar energy. Solar energy is healthy energy for people and for the beautiful Wisconsin landscapes we all enjoy,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.
Solar for Good is funded through generous donations from local philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard of Deerfield and additional donors. The program provides up to 20% of the cost of a solar array, with a grant cap of $10,000 for solar arrays sized less than 75 kilowatts and a grant cap of $20,000 for arrays 75 kilowatts and above. Solar for Good has already awarded over $200,000 in grants, resulting in nearly $1.8 million of new solar power projects in Wisconsin.
In return for funding assistance, recipients of the Solar for Good grants help spread the word about their project and educate their communities about solar power’s benefits.
How to Apply
Organizations can learn more and apply at https://www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood/.
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 are open now for this round of funding and must be received by Tuesday, November 13th 2018 at 5:00pm. Decisions and funding announcements will be made by Monday, November 26th, 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.
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: www.renewwisconsin.org.