As part of its tenth annual Renewable Energy Summit, RENEW Wisconsin will recognize individuals and organizations who have made significant and lasting advances in renewable energy development here in Wisconsin.
Titled “Building the Clean Energy Mosaic,” this year’s Summit will be hosted virtually over three days from Tuesday, January 12th through Thursday, January 14th, 2021. The theme of this year’s event, “Building the Clean Energy Mosaic,” will highlight the diversity of technologies, people, and scale needed to shape our clean energy future.
Roster of 2020 awardees
Renewable Energy Business of the Year
Northwind Solar Cooperative, Amherst
Renewable Energy Catalysts of the Year:
Sid Sczygelski & Ali Wolf, Aspirus Health, Wausau
Charles Hua, Madison
Renewable Energy Champion of the Year
Oregon School District
Renewable Energy Pioneer of the Year
Renewable Energy Project of the Year
Two Creeks Solar Park, Manitowoc County
NextEra Energy Resources (developer)
Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (joint owner)
Madison Gas and Electric (joint owner)
Renewable Energy Business of the Year
NorthwindSolar Cooperative has been a fixture in Central Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace since 2007, operating principally in the residential and small commercial segments. Throughout its history, Northwind has been acutely conscious of the value of community ties. Northwind’s PV systems are a common sight in Amherst. The company has operated the Grow Solar – Central Wisconsin group purchase program for four straight years, designing and installing more than a megawatt of solar capacity for 168 residential customers. After the company reorganized itself as a worker-owned cooperative structure, Northwind committed to building a new headquarters building in Amherst Business Park that showcases its talents and services. With 44 kW of PV capacity and multiple battery configurations, Northwind’s new headquarters building invites prospective customers to pursue solar + storage as the energy package of the future.
Renewable Energy Catalysts of the Year
Aspirus Health is a health care organization serving much of central and northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with 10 hospitals, 50+ clinics, labs and other service-providing facilities within its system. In 2018 Aspirus launched a systemwide initiative to identify and implement strategies for slashing its energy overhead and scaling back its carbon footprint. Sid Sczygelski, chief financial officer of Aspirus, chairs this initiative, while Sustainability Director Ali Wolf directs and coordinates this ambitious undertaking. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions systemwide 80% by 2030. Going into 2021, Sczygelski, Wolf and the Aspirus sustainability team have made great progress to date. Aspirus has integrated into its buildings more than 900 kilowatts of solar PV on its rooftops, saving more than $600,000/year in energy expenses. In 2021, Aspirus plans to double its use of solar energy systemwide and complete construction on its most energy-efficient facility yet, a clinic in Wausau.
In 2017, students and staff at Madison West High School started work on a campaign to power their school with a rooftop solar PV system. That year, Charles Hua, then a junior, took the helm of West Green Club and launched a fundraising and outreach campaign that blossomed into one of the largest youth-led sustainability efforts in Wisconsin. From June 2017 through 2019, the West Green Club raised nearly $90,000 from staff, students, parents and local foundations, accounting for nearly 50% of the cost of their 128 kW solar PV system. Installed last summer by Westphal Electric, Madison West’s solar system is now the largest array supplying electricity to a Madison Metropolitan School District building. The example set by Hua and West Green Club helped inspire the school district to adopt a 100% renewable goal for all of its facilities. Hua is now a junior at Harvard University.
Renewable Energy Champion of the Year
Long a leader in pursuing solar power for its operations, Oregon School District took advantage of an opportunity in 2018 to push the envelope on sustainability at its new Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg. Collaborating with HGA’s Madison office, an architectural and engineering design firm, the school district financed and saw to completion the first net zero energy public school in Wisconsin. Equipped with a 646 kW rooftop solar array, a ground-source heat pump system and onsite battery storage, Forest Edge is an all-electric building. There is no gas connection to the school. Completed in the fall of 2020, Forest Edge represents a quantum leap in capturing, controlling and maximizing the economic value of sunshine and ground temperatures to heat, cool and power a building where many people congregate.
Renewable Energy Pioneer of the Year
Impatient with federal and state government inaction on climate change, Dane County decided to roll up it sleeves and get to work, starting in 2017 with the creation of the Office of Climate Change and Energy. The County’s approach to reducing fossil fuel use has been aggressive and remarkably systematic for a local government. A number of these actions bore fruit in 2020. These include:
Throwing the switch on a biogas processing plant in April that converts gas from landfill waste and cow manure into a pipeline-grade renewable fuel;
Releasing a Climate Action Plan, also in April, containing recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions countywide 45% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050;
Partnering with Madison Gas and Electric to host a 9-megawatt solar array on airport property and purchase the output from that project, under a long-term contract; and
Purchasing property in the Town of Cottage Grove to host a larger solar array that will enable the County to offset all of its electricity usage with zero-emission power.
Renewable Energy Project of the Year
Developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources in Manitowoc County, the 150-megawatt Two Creeks Solar Park was energized last November. It is now the largest power plant in the state of Wisconsin that is fueled by the sun. Jointly owned by Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric, Two Creeks effectively doubled solar generation capacity in Wisconsin, and its output will equal the electrical consumption of 33,000 residential households. Two Creeks was the first solar power plant to receive approval from the Public Service Commission, and the first to be approved as a utility-owned asset. Seeing Two Creeks to completion opens the door to a new chapter in electric power, one highlighted by the emergence of solar power as the cleanest, more affordable and least risky supply option available to Wisconsin electric providers.
This year’s summit program will also draw attention to other milestones and notable achievements in 2020, including the following:
The Public Service Commission approved two large solar farms—Badger State Solar and Paris Solar—that will add 349 MW of solar power to Wisconsin’s electric generation portfolio;
Madison Gas and Electric completed two smaller solar farms in its service territory, with a combined capacity of 14 MW, to supply several customers under contract and expand its shared solar program;
Grants from RENEW’s Solar for Good program resulted in 27 new solar installations across the state totaling 1,265 kW of operating capacity.
Two Eau Claire high schools—Memorial and North—celebrated the completion of their 126 kW solar arrays supported by Solar on Schools, a joint venture between the Couillard Solar Foundation and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
Eagle Point Solar installed 400 kW(AC) of PV capacity, serving four City of La Crosse-owned buildings.
On Sunday December 27th, President Trump signed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that includes support for clean energy programs and the extension of two important renewable energy tax credits. The law provides support for the advancement of solar, wind, energy storage, research and development, and energy efficiency.
The renewable electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) have been instrumental to advancing renewable energy in the United States and the extension included in the recent omnibus bill will help ensure clean energy’s continued growth. The tax credits for wind and solar, in particular, are expected to spur vital economic investment.
Abby Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), sent a summary of key solar and energy storage provisions to local SEIA Chapters like RENEW Wisconsin. Below are highlights from her report:
Federal Tax Bill 2020 – Key Solar And Storage Provisions
Federal Tax Credits Extended: The solar investment tax credit (ITC) will remain at 26% for projects that begin construction in 2021 and 2022, step down to 22% in 2023, and down to 10% in 2024 for commercial projects while the residential credit ends completely. Companies beginning construction on projects in 2021 will still have a four-year period to place their projects in service to take advantage of the ITC, with the statutory deadline for projects placed in service reset to before January 1, 2026.
Reduce Barriers to Solar Adoption: $35 million appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE), directing the Solar Energy Technologies Office to “reduce market barriers…to the adoption of solar energy technologies,” including “the development of best practices, models, and voluntary streamlined processes for local siting and permitting of distributed solar energy systems to reduce costs.”
Increase Funding for Solar Research: Boosts annual spending targets to $300 million per year through 2025 for DOE programs that improve solar PV energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness, increase manufacturing and recycling of solar panels, and fund programs to integrate solar power into the grid;
Invest in Energy Storage Research: Directs $100 million per year through 2025 to a newly created Energy Storage System Research, Development, and Deployment Program at DOE, aimed at R&D to improve technologies ranging from distributed batteries and control systems for grid integration, long-duration storage technologies such as pumped hydro and compressed-air energy storage.
RENEW Wisconsin is thrilled to see this package come together and get signed into law. This new investment in clean energy is welcome news for Wisconsin’s renewable energy workers and has the potential to drive economic activity and clean energy investment in the coming years.
The Two Creeks Solar Park, located in Manitowoc County, was energized last week, becoming the state’s largest generating station powered by the sun. Developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy, Two Creeks is jointly owned by two Wisconsin electric utilities: Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). WPS owns and operates a 100 megawatt (MW) share of the 150 MW power plant, while MGE has the remaining 50 MW share.
Located next to the Point Beach Nuclear Plant, Two Creeks effectively doubles the amount of solar generating capacity in Wisconsin to 300 MW, and will, over the next six months, produce more electricity than the combined output from all other existing solar systems in Wisconsin. Expected to produce more than 300,000,000 megawatt-hours a year, Two Creeks will generate about one-half of one percent of the state’s overall supply of electricity, which is the equivalent of what 33,000 residences consume annually.
Along with the 300 MW Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County, Two Creeks received approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) in April 2019. These two were the pioneering solar farm proposals that navigated through the PSC’s power plant siting process and won approval from the agency. At the same meeting, the PSC granted a joint request from WPS and MGE to acquire Two Creeks.
Since then, the PSC has given the green light to two more solar farms totaling 249 MW in capacity, including NextEra Energy’s 100 MW Point Beach Solar Farm next door to Two Creeks. Point Beach Solar is under construction and should be completed in the fall of 2021.
Building Two Creeks was no small undertaking. It involved punching thousands of posts into the ground to support horizontal tracking systems spreading across 800 acres of relatively flat terrain. Mounted on these rotating poles are more than 500,000 panels that follow the sun as it crosses the sky going east to west. Between the first rays of sunlight and the last ones before sunset, these panels soak in the sunshine and convert it to electricity.
A plant like Two Creeks will begin displacing higher-cost power at the moment it is energized, and these savings will grow significantly over the course of its 30-to-50-year life. True, the utilities will need to recover the cost of building the solar farm, somewhere in the vicinity of $195 million. But the savings utilities expect to reap from avoided fossil fuel purchases and pollution control expenditures will more than outweigh their investment in a zero-carbon generation source. Seen in this light, large-scale solar is indisputably the most cost-effective supply option that an electric utility can pursue going forward.
The benefits from Two Creeks extend beyond ratepayer savings. Manitowoc County and the Town of Two Creeks, the jurisdictions hosting the solar farm, expect to reap a combined $600,000 in local aids each year while the project remains in service. That number grows to $18,000,000 over the course of 30 years, which is the projected minimum lifespan of Two Creeks.
Solar is a noncombustible energy resource that does not emit any gaseous emissions or particulates when converted to electricity. Deploying solar at the scale of Two Creeks will capture significant public health and air quality benefits by avoiding emissions that are associated with conventional fossil generation plants. In another PSC proceeding involving a 15O MW solar farm in eastern Wisconsin, the developer anticipates annual emissions reductions in the following categories of pollutants: (1) nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 195,000 pounds; (2) methane (CH4) by 20,000 pounds; (3) nitrous oxide (N2O) by 5,000 pounds; and (4) carbon dioxide (CO2) by 405 million pounds.
Decarbonizing the state’s fleet of power plants is also a job creation strategy. The PSC estimates that somewhere between 200 and 300 jobs were created during the project’s construction window. It’s quite likely that many of the workers involved in the building of Two Creeks are now hard at work constructing the adjoining Point Beach solar farm.
In the annals of Wisconsin electric utility history, Two Creeks represents a noteworthy milestone, as the first solar farm to clear the PSC’s power plant review process and become a valuable addition to the state’s portfolio of power plants. And it took only 18+ months from the crossing of the regulatory finish line for Two Creeks to start sending power into the grid.
Two Creeks can also be viewed as the lead entry in a parade of large solar farms seeking to cross the same regulatory finish line and proceed to construction and completion. Looking out over the next 12 months, the PSC will review and make decisions on six solar farm applications totaling 1,150 MW (see table below).
Anticipated decision date
Within that same 12-month window, we expect two more PSC-approved solar farms—Badger Hollow I (150 MW) and Point Beach (100 MW) to cross the finish line and begin generating electricity.
What we’re seeing here is the emergence of a new resource paradigm that is ushering in a major wave of public works construction across the state. As this transition unfolds, solar power will become widely recognized as a linchpin in the state’s economy, extending through this decade and beyond.
Update: The Request for Proposals (RFP) pursuant to the 2020 grant cycle of the Energy Innovation Grant Program has been posted on the Public Service Commission’s web site. You can access the RFP here. The due date for grant submissions is January 22, 2021.
October 19, 2020
The Public Service Commission approved $7 million in funding that will be awarded through the 2020 round of the Energy Innovation Grant Program (EIGP). The EIGP awards financial assistance that supports the Office of Energy Innovation’s mission relating to energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, planning and resilience. In the previous round in 2018, the EIGP distributed nearly $5 million to more than 100 recipients. EIGP presently has a cash balance of more than $26 million.
The final order (PSC REF# 398392) was issued on October 16th, setting forth elements including (1) eligibility criteria; (2) eligible activities; (3) program budget; (4) procedures for tracking and reporting; and (5) development of the Request for Proposals (RFP).
The most important decisions rendered by the Commission are itemized below, interspersed with tables providing greater granularity on the program design and schedule.
The following entities are eligible to seek funds through this program: manufacturers of all sizes; and cities, villages, towns, counties, K-12 school districts, tribes, municipal water and wastewater utilities, municipal electric utilities, municipal natural gas utilities, University of Wisconsin System campuses and facilities, Wisconsin Technical College System, public or nonprofit hospitals, and 501(3)(c) nonprofits (collectively MUSH Market).
A budget of $7 million was authorized for the upcoming round. This represents an increase of $2 million from the previous round. The allocations for each of the four program activities are listed below.
Projects involving all statutorily defined renewable energy resources are eligible for funding.
The additional $2 million were allocated to Activities 1 and 2.
Optional Available Funds Per Activity for 2020 Program Year
Maximum grant request
Available funds per activity
1. Renewable Energy + Energy Storage
22% up to $250,000
(solar PV only)
$500,000 (other RE)
$250,000 (energy storage system)
$500,000 (solar + storage)
$750,000 (other RE + storage)
2. Energy Efficiency + Demand Response
3. Electric + RNG Vehicles + Infrastructure
4. Comprehensive Energy Planning
The Commission also approved a timeline for the upcoming round of funding, the milestones of which appear in the table below.
Tentative 2020 Energy Innovation Grant Program Year Timeline
PSC consideration of 2020 Grant Program Design – final order issued
Final order issued; Circulate RFP 90-day application period
Review and score proposals
2020 EIGP Award recommendations considered; announce awards
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has awarded over $190,000 in cash grants and materials to Wisconsin nonprofits for installing on-site solar energy systems. Seventeen organizations will install 719 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity leading to nearly $1.4 million in renewable energy investments in Wisconsin.
The following organizations have been offered Fall 2020 Solar for Good grants to install new solar electric systems:
All Saints Lutheran Church, house of worship, Fitchburg.
Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, after-school youth programming, Madison.
Community Clothes Closet, free clothing provider, Menasha.
Couleecap Inc, poverty alleviation, Westby.
Ezekiel Lutheran Church, house of worship, River Falls.
Friends of Sauk County Fairgrounds, historic preservation, Baraboo.
Grace Evangelical Free Church, house of worship, Viroqua.
Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, affordable housing provider, Madison.
Habitat for Humanity Restore, affordable housing support, Beaver Dam.
Just One More Ministry, food pantry, Glendale.
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Restore, affordable housing support, Greenfield.
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, house of worship, Madison.
The BRICK Ministries, poverty alleviation and food pantry, Ashland.
Walnut Way Conservation Corps, community conservation organization, Milwaukee.
Yerkes Future Foundation, education and historic preservation, Williams Bay.
Two organizations have asked to remain anonymous at this time.
This round of Solar for Good grants features a diverse group of organizations from across Wisconsin. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County will install over 250 panels at their Madison-based facility and plan to demonstrate the benefits of solar energy to the young people they serve. An 11-kilowatt array will be installed at the BRICK Ministries in Ashland with the help of donated solar panels from One Energy Renewables, a large-scale solar developer. And a 60-kilowatt array is planned at the famous Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, home of the world’s largest refracting telescope used for astronomical research.
“The grant and the installation of solar panels underscores the ongoing value of Yerkes Observatory as a place for scientific discovery and education,” stated Dianna Colman of Yerkes Future Foundation. “Students and visitors will experience firsthand the impact of solar power…even on a building dating back to 1897.”
In addition to the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good’s founding funder, this cycle of grants also received backing from the Array it Forward initiative at First Unitarian Society in Madison. The First Unitarian Society won a Solar for Good grant in 2018 and wanted to share the benefits they received from their solar array with other nonprofits across Wisconsin. Array it Forward is made possible through donations solicited from their congregation and the community.
“Solar for Good shares our values and priorities for stabilizing our climate and speeding our transition to renewable energy,” said Carol Phelps, a contributing donor to Array it Forward. “This will make life better for the children of the world…when people unite to tackle climate change, there is great hope for the future.”
The 17 nonprofit organizations are a part of Solar for Good’s 7th round of funding. Since its inception in 2017, Solar for Good has offered solar grants to 96 Wisconsin-based nonprofits.
When each of the solar projects are energized, these nonprofits will have added over 4 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to Wisconsin’s electric mix, enough to power approximately 900 homes. Solar for Good projects will represent a total of $9.2 million of private investments in Wisconsin renewable energy over the past three years.
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 and Array it Forward, 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 which 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. More information on RENEW’s website: www.renewwisconsin.org.
Two Ashland, Wisconsin nonprofits are installing solar photovoltaic systems on their facilities.The nonprofits are household names in the Chequamegon Bay area of western Lake Superior – the New Day Advocacy Center and The BRICK Ministries.
New Day Advocacy Center provides free and confidential domestic violence and sexual assault victim services, including shelter and other crisis intervention services. They also provide community prevention education to culture respect and lasting change in community behavior – No More Abuse!
The BRICK’s mission is to compassionately help people in need.They are best known for their Food Shelf Program, but also provide emergency financial resources and referrals with a focus to keep people in their homes through their Benevolence Program
Both organizations have considered solar installations in the past to reduce utility expenses and to generate clean energy.But as each nonprofit had roofs which needed repair, and had purchased or recently moved into newly renovated facilities, they were both financially strained. The solar would have to wait.That was until Eric Udelhofen called from OneEnergy Renewables, a community and utility scale solar project developer based in Seattle, Washington with a satellite office in Madison.
OneEnergy had 35 high-quality, modern solar modules they wanted to donate to a worthy Ashland nonprofit.OneEnergy was the solar developer on the recently constructed 1-megawatt Xcel Energy community solar garden in Ashland. The modules were “bones,” extra parts, left over from purchasing or shipping in bulk quantities, and OneEnergy wanted something good to come from their surplus.
Solar modules represent roughly 15% of the cost of a small solar project.The other 85% is comprised of inverters, racking, miscellaneous additional materials and labor.Jolma Electric of Ashland, who was also involved in the installation of Ashland’s community solar project, joined the project agreeing to perform its installation services “at cost,” and the total project cost was reduced by 22%.Then C&S Design & Engineering, also from Ashland, reduced their engineering cost by 50%, further lowering the total installation price.
Additional funding was needed to cover the remaining balance of the installation.The New Day Board was the first of the two projects to vote to move forward with raising the remaining funds.A GoFundMe site was set up and $6,500 was raised in two weeks.In addition, $3,400 of private checks were received designated for the solar installation.Of the nearly $10,000 of cash donated to the New Day rooftop solar project, OneEnergy employees donated $6,000.
There is another story here.At the core of OneEnergy’s business model is a commitment to serve the communities in which they operate, along with a strident belief that the transition to clean energy will help create a more sustainable and equitable global economy.Not only did the corporation donate the solar modules, but employees stood behind this commitment and donated their personal cash.The status quo of corporate America as an entity has become isolated from their communities.OneEnergy, as well as Jolma Electric and C&S Design and Engineering, are demonstrating an alternative approach, modeling a more enlightened view about the role of companies in society and a commitment to be the change that they wish to see in the world.
So New Day’s project is off and running and now The BRICK has begun its fundraising campaign.An awning style installation was designed by Jolma Electric and C&S Design & Engineering.The donated modules will fill half the south façade of the facility with opportunity to fill the remainder if or when funds allow.The full project would cost $31,990 of which $20,490 has already been raised.A GoFundMe site has been set up for The BRICK to fund the remaining $11,500.If you can help go to: https://bit.ly/3k0IeLm to donate.
During this time of COVID-19, it is encouraging to see that community-building defeats fear, love overcomes hatred, and clean energy offsets fossil fuels.With the support of this community, these two nonprofits, New Day Advocacy Center and The BRICK, are choosing the alternative path, the “culture of service.”