We Energies Pilot Programs

We Energies Pilot Programs

Just before the holidays, We Energies received approval from the Public Service Commission to begin two new renewable energy pilot programs.

The first is called the Dedicated Renewable Energy Resource program and would allow commercial, industrial, and local government customers to access large-scale renewable energy projects.  The projects would allow larger customers to meet their sustainability and renewable energy goals, while potentially saving money, and We Energies could supply up to 150 megawatts of existing customer load with renewable energy through this program.  The program would also allow an unlimited amount of new load to be served with renewable energy through this program.

The second program, called Solar Now, would enable We Energies to lease roof or ground space from customers.  We Energies would own the solar projects, and pay lease payments to the host customers.  The program could build up to 35 megawatts of solar.  RENEW Members had various opinions about this program, which were reflected in our comments filed with the PSC.

We will keep you apprised as these programs roll out.

Big year for renewables ahead!

Big year for renewables ahead!

Home-grown renewable electricity is poised for a big breakout this year.  Two solar projects large enough to replace fossil-fuel power plants are making headway, while utilities in Wisconsin have made stronger renewable energy commitments.  At the same time an accelerating number of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens are turning to renewable energy for their own use.

Hearings are set this month for the Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County and the Two Creeks solar project in Manitowoc and Kewaunee Counties.  The Public Service Commission will likely decide whether to approve of the two projects in mid-March.  The utilities Wisconsin Public Service (based in Green Bay) and Madison Gas & Electric plan to acquire 300 megawatts of  generation capacity from these plants, enough to power over 70,000 average Wisconsin households. If the two projects are approved, the utilities will be able to reduce their fossil-fuel emissions while increasing supplies of renewable power in their energy generation mix.

Take action to support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm today!

We expect another wave of large solar power plants to follow soon after the PSC issues decisions on Badger Hollow and Two Creeks.

Wisconsin electric providers are driving this transition to renewable energy through their recently announced plans to scale back carbon emissions.

WI Utility Commitments to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Renewable Energy

UTILITY
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS
CURRENT WI RENEWABLES MIX
STATED GOALS OR RECENT ACTIONS
WEC (WE Energies and Wisc. Public Service)
1.1  million + 440,000
7% WE
7.8% WPS
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Alliant (WI Power and Light)
460,000
13.3%
29% renewables by 2024
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Dairyland Power
258,000
14.4%
PPAs for 98 MW Wind (2017), 20 MW solar (2016), 80 MW Iowa Wind (2016)
Xcel Energy
256,000
28% (systemwide)
80% CO2 reduction by 2030
100% CO2 reduction by 2050
WPPI Energy
200,000
14.5%
PPAs for 132 MW wind (2018) and 99 MW solar (2020)
Madison Gas and Electric
145,000
10.1%
30% renewables by 2030
80% CO2 reduction by 2050

How can you help accelerate clean energy?Increasingly, businesses and nonprofit organizations are also committing to renewable energy.  Solar for Good, the grant program managed by RENEW Wisconsin to support non-profits going solar, announced its most successful round of funding ever in 2018.   The program’s Fall 2018 round announced that 36 organizations have been allocated $445,000 in grants which will lead to $4.5 million in solar investment in Wisconsin.  At the same time major businesses are committing to clean energy.  On January 3, 2019, Advocate Aurora Health committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 for its 27 hospitals and 500+ outpatient sites in Wisconsin and Illinois.

This tremendous momentum would not be possible without RENEW members and supporters of clean energy from all across Wisconsin.  One important thing you can do is to help us ensure the Badger Hollow Solar Farm is approved.  A strong showing of public support will help this project, which needs approval by the Public Service Commission.

Please support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm by adding your name as a supporter here.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Solar Grant Program to Generate $4.5 Million in New Solar Energy Projects for Wisconsin Nonprofits

Solar Grant Program to Generate $4.5 Million in New Solar Energy Projects for Wisconsin Nonprofits

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.

 

Our Vision for a “Powered Up” Dane County

Our Vision for a “Powered Up” Dane County

Over the past three months, RENEW Wisconsin has been participating in an exciting and audacious challenge to develop ways to bolster the middle class of Dane County.  UW-Madison was selected as one of four universities nationally to participate in a competition sponsored and funded by the Schmidt Futures Foundation, led by Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt. UW’s program is called “Dream Up Wisconsin.”

The challenge is to increase the net income of 10,000 Dane County Families by 10%.

Our Plan:  to “Power Up” Dane County families and communities with clean energy!  We were one of 46 original applicants, and we were fortunate to be one of 11 applicants to receive $10,000 to more fully flesh out our proposal.

Our vision for Power Up Dane County is to create buzz about clean energy and provide community members the tools to adopt clean energy to reduce their monthly bills, create new jobs, and build a healthier community. We want everyone to have access to clean energy, from efficient homes to solar panels on their roof, and electric vehicles in their garage.

However, many middle class families don’t know that these technologies are available to them. Power Up is our idea to change that.

The program would start by empowering households to take control of their electricity bills using “Neighborhood Champions.”  These champions will be excited members of the community who will help households install efficiency kits and the home energy sensor, Sense. Sense measures electricity consumption in real-time, and gives users a visual indication of their energy use through an app. By learning which devices in their home use the most electricity, residents can unplug energy hogs and save money.

After they have more efficient homes and a better understanding of their energy use, we want to connect participants with solar installers, home weatherization technicians, car dealerships that specialize in electric vehicles, and additional rebates for their clean energy investments.

Power Up will make it desirable, easy, and financially feasible for participants to adopt clean energy, like solar panels and electric cars.  These clean energy technologies will reduce air pollution and save families thousands of dollars per year on their energy bills.

Power Up is competing against 11 other proposals for the top 3 spots. Should we be selected for the next round of competition, we will pitch our proposal to Schmidt Futures in Arizona in late January.

We believe in a future that is “Powered Up” with clean energy technology. That future includes millions of dollars of in energy bill and healthcare savings, new clean energy jobs, and a healthy and prosperous middle class. The momentum around clean energy is building by the day. With Wisconsin utilities, counties, and municipalities committing to 100% renewable energy, we know the future of Wisconsin will be one with extensive clean energy adoption. Power Up is one vision for how to get there.

 

Solar for Good Grows by Leaps and Bounds

Solar for Good Grows by Leaps and Bounds

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.

 

Large Solar Update: Richland County Solar Project

Large Solar Update: Richland County Solar Project

Solar farm proposals continue to spring up like mushrooms across western Wisconsin. In the last month, Tradewind Energy, a solar and wind energy developer headquartered in Kansas, submitted plans to build a 50 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Richland County near the Village of Lone Rock.

Tradewind’s project would spread across 500 acres of farmland north of U.S. Highway 14 in the Town of Buena Vista. If approved, this project will generate on average about 100,000 megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity a year, enough electricity supply for more than 13,000 Wisconsin households.

Similar to the Badger Hollow Solar Farm proposed in Iowa County, the Richland County solar farm would deploy long rows of panels mounted on single-axis trackers. Unlike Badger Hollow, Tradewind plans to purchase the participating properties outright instead of entering into a long-term lease with the two landowners for the use of that land. In addition, Tradewind’s permitting path is different, because at 50 MW, the Richland County solar farm is not large enough to preempt local zoning ordinances. It will be the Richland County Zoning Committee and not the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin that will review proposed solar farm, and decide whether or not to issue a Conditional Use Permit.  The project site lies within a district zoned for general agriculture and forestry.

Heather Allen and I drove to Richland Center on November 5th to attend the permit hearing and communicate RENEW’s strong support for Tradewind’s proposal.  About 25 people filled the meeting room. In attendance were members of the project development team, the owners of the farmland to be purchased, more than a dozen neighboring residents, and several people living elsewhere in Richland County.

The neighbors in attendance communicated their concerns about the proposal. One neighbor raised the issue of glare and glint that might be experienced by those living in proximity to the project area. Because the project site is near a small airport serving Sauk and Richland counties, Tradewind contracted with a consulting firm to determine whether solar glint could interfere with air traffic flying into and out from the airport. The consultant concluded that the solar farm would not pose problems for pilots using the Tri-County airport near Lone Rock.

So long as solar arrays are oriented so that they could never send glare into the control tower, they can be located at or near airports. A 2014 fact sheet prepared by Meister Consultants under a U.S. Dept. of Energy grant award notes that there are 30 airport solar PV installations operating in 15 states; the numbers are certainly higher today. One of the newest airport solar projects now operating is at Appleton International Airport, where Green Bay-based Eland Electric built a 230 kW parking canopy that supplies electricity to both the terminal and to the electric vehicles parked at the charging stations.

Another issue raised by neighbors relates to the decommissioning of the project at the end of its operating life. With solar and wind projects, the permitting authority will require the developer to post a bond sufficient to cover the cost of removing the arrays as well as restoring the land to its former condition. Host jurisdictions generally don’t struggle with this issue when the facility is owned by utility or a public body. However, in cases where the proposed facility would be owned by an independent power producer, especially one headquartered in a different state or country, there is often a concern that should the company run into financial difficulties or go bankrupt, the bond could disappear or become unavailable to the host jurisdiction. As explained by company representatives at the hearing, the bond that is posted would effectively become the property of the County, off-limits to Tradewind and all other entities that acquire an interest in the array over its operating life.  This arrangement protects Richland County and ensures that the solar farm will be properly decommissioned.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Zoning Committee decided to table discussion on the Conditional Use Permit and take the matter up again at its November 19th meeting, which will begin at 3:00 PM.  In all likelihood, the committee will vote on the Conditional Use Permit at that meeting. Prior to the Zoning Committee meeting, Tradewind will hold a community information meeting on Thursday, November 15th, at the Lone Rock Community Hall, starting at 5:30 PM. If you live in Richland County, mark your calendars for these meetings.  Richland County residents can also call or email to the County Board of Supervisors Zoning Committee in support of the project.

Please reach out to us at RENEW if you want to become a clean energy champion in your community!