MADISON, WI – The Solar for Good grant program has awarded over $450,000 in grants and solar panel donations to Wisconsin nonprofit organizations. Thirty-five nonprofits will install over 2,200 kilowatts of solar electricity, leading to more than $6 million in renewable energy investments in Wisconsin.
The following organizations have been offered Spring 2022 Solar for Good grants to install new solar energy systems:
Agrace HospiceCare – health care, Janesville
Albany Lions Club – community services, Albany
Aldo Leopold Foundation – conservation, Baraboo
Antigo Public Library – community services, Antigo
City of Altoona – affordable housing, Altoona
Couleecap – community services, Westby
Curative Connections – human services, Green Bay
Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center – conservation, Madison
Edgerton Retirement Apartments – affordable housing, Edgerton
Emmanuel Community United Methodist Church – religious, Menomonee Falls
Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) – human services, Racine
Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum – conservation, Kenosha
Hunger Task Force – meal distribution, West Milwaukee
Lawrence University – education, Baileys Harbor
Madison Area Cooperative Housing Alliance (MACHA) – affordable housing, Madison
McFarland Lutheran Church – religious, McFarland
Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) – education, Milwaukee
Movin’ Out – affordable housing, Cottage Grove
Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church – religious, Trempealeau
Northwest Side Community Development Corp – community development, Milwaukee
Outreach Community Health Center – health care, Milwaukee
Racine County Food Bank – meal distribution, Racine
Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter – animal shelter, Prairie du Chien
Rooted – agriculture, Madison
Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program – community services, Dodgeville
St. Mary Parish – religious, Omro
St. Robert Parish – religious, Shorewood
Tina’s K9 Rescue – animal shelter, Sparta
Trinity Episcopal Church – religious, Baraboo
Union Congregational United Church of Christ – religious, Green Bay
Vernon Economic Development Association – community services, Viroqua
Westcare Wisconsin – human services, Milwaukee
Wisconsin Housing Preservation Corp – affordable housing, Madison
Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve – conservation, Two Rivers
*One organization has asked to remain anonymous at this time.
The grant recipients from the Spring 2022 round represent various sizes and types of nonprofits from across Wisconsin. Curative Connections, an organization that provides services to older adults with disabilities, will install a 280-kW ground-mounted solar array to offset nearly half of their electricity use. Over 80 solar panels will be installed on the rooftop of Outreach Community Health Center in Milwaukee to provide electricity for their medical, dental, and podiatry services. And Couleecap, an organization that works to fight poverty, will install two solar arrays at low-income housing facilities, directly offsetting the electricity use of their tenants.
“Without the Solar for Good Program, it would be difficult for low-income households to participate in solar programs that reduce energy costs and benefit their community,” says Hetti Brown, Executive Director of Couleecap. “The program is an important tool in our effort to reduce energy poverty for the rural residents of Wisconsin.”
Each organization agrees to highlight their solar project and provide education to their community about the benefits of solar energy as a requirement of their grant award.
“There are no publicly available solar installations within Langlade County, and we can offer tours for school children and the public,” said Dominic Frandrup, Director of the Antigo Public Library. “The long-term vision of the library is to also offer EV charging for downtown revitalization and eventually have an EV bookmobile to replace our gasoline van.
The 35 nonprofits are a part of Solar for Good’s 10th round of funding. The program has offered solar grants to 152 Wisconsin-based nonprofits since it began in 2017. Once projects are complete and energized, Solar for Good grant recipients will add over 7.3 megawatts of renewable energy to Wisconsin’s electric grid, providing enough electricity to power approximately 1,400 Wisconsin households.
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, RENEW Wisconsin awards grants and solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy.
About Couillard Solar Foundation The Couillard Solar Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and our mission is to further the urgent path to decarbonization for Wisconsin, and create a cleaner, safer environment for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status. We help schools and nonprofits gain vital access to solar power, by providing solar panels, programs and education through the Solar for Good and Solar on Schools grant programs. For more information please visit www.CouillardSolarFoundation.org or follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram.
On May 26th two petitions were filed at the Public Service Commission (PSC) seeking rulings to clarify the long-simmering issue of third party-financed renewable energy generation serving individual customers behind their meters.
In one of the petitions (Docket No. 9300-DR-106), Vote Solar, a national nonprofit advocacy organization with 500 members residing in Wisconsin, asks the agency to affirm the legality of a tax-financed solar system installed at the residence of one of its Wisconsin members. In the other petition (Docket No. 9300-DR-105), Custer-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association seeks a similar affirmation, based on relevant case law precedents, enabling customers to host third party-financed electric generation systems on their premises without fear of being designated a public utility. You can read the petitions online at the above-referenced docket numbers on the PSC’s website.
Although the two petitions take different approaches to the legal question at issue, a positive ruling from the PSC on either or both of these filings would achieve the desired result: the ability of individual customers to access electricity generated on their premises from installations owned by third parties. For that reason, RENEW is urging stakeholders—solar contractors, climate and energy justice advocacy organizations, local governments, and legislators–to signal their support for both petitions through statements of support filed at the PSC.
When the PSC receives a Declaratory Ruling petition, it is obligated to open a 20-day initial comment window prior to deciding whether or not to accept that petition. Accepting the petition is a prerequisite for rendering a decision on the legal merits of the case.
RENEW is asking stakeholders to submit statements in both proceedings urging the PSC to accept the petitions and convene a proceeding to affirm third-party financing on its merits, emphasizing the following themes:
- Businesses need clarity on this legal question before they will commit to providing renewable energy to customers with equipment they would own. Though customer demand for solar PV is growing, the ongoing legal ambiguity acts as a powerful disincentive to businesses contemplating investments in equipment and staff to serve that part of the market. The risk of fighting expensive legal battles with utilities also diminishes business appetite for doing business in Wisconsin.
- Third-party financing eliminates the upfront financial commitment that often stops low and middle-income households from pursuing solar. As a market-building tool, third-party financing can expand the residential customer base more effectively than either rebates or tax credits. Third-party financing is a linchpin mechanism for securing a just energy transition that engages customers of all income levels.
- The lack of legal clarity on this issue is an unjustifiable restriction on property owners’ ability to supply themselves with clean energy produced on their premises. The PSC has had several opportunities in recent years to settle this issue but declined to do so. It is past time for the PSC to clear a path for the homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits desiring to access onsite solar power owned by a third party.
Currently, Wisconsin case law allows for third-party financing of energy projects, but some electric utilities have denied interconnection to installations that would have been owned by third parties. They contend that such installations should be regulated as public utilities, even though they are designed to supply energy to only one entity: the host customer. In our view, a business that installs and operates energy equipment on a customer’s property for that customer’s exclusive use should not be regulated as a public utility.
PSC affirmation for third-party financing is essential to spreading the benefits of clean energy to all Wisconsin utility customers.
The deadline for submitting comments is June 14th.
If you have questions or represent a business or organization that would like to engage on this issue, please contact Michael Vickerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Akinlana Abdalla is tall and self-assured with a gentle, almost playful demeanor. He was “the kid who always got in trouble for taking his toys apart to see how they worked.” This curiosity and innate engineering mind make him particularly good at his job as a Wind Turbine Repair Specialist at Ingeteam in Milwaukee, WI, where teams of engineers and technicians specialize in supporting solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable energy products.
Akinlana was born in Milwaukee, where he now lives with his wife and children. He has an extensive background in commercial construction and is a Journeymen Carpenter by trade. His career took him from deep tunnel mining through Laborers’ Local 113 to building bridges for Zenith Tech, later starting a business with his wife, and eventually earning an undergraduate degree in general management. He was attracted to Ingeteam because he wanted to move away from management and get back to a more “hands-on” work environment aligned with his values.
Ingeteam is a global renewable energy solutions company. Their 140,000 square-foot state-of-the-art production facility in Milwaukee is the only place in the United States where wind turbines are built by an American workforce.
Ingeteam customers send wind turbine generators that cannot be repaired up the tower. Akinlana and his team perform mechanical and electrical diagnostics on the generators to determine their failure. Ingeteam then submits a report to the customer and a cost estimate for the needed repairs. If the customer decides to move forward with the repairs, Akinlana and his team “repair it and send it back to the customer like new,” adhering to the Code of Excellence established by IBEW 2150.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Akinlana said. “There’s no monotony. Every day is something different. We could get the same [generator] models coming in on one truck, but all of them will have different issues. When we open it up, it’s just fun trying to get to the bottom of what the root cause of a failure is.”
While it seems as if Akinlana was born to do this work, he thinks his success is determined by having a positive attitude and complementing it with aptitude.
“If you have a good attitude, that’s 90% of it,” he said. “Developing your mechanical aptitude and other skills to complete a repair is something that can be taught. But it starts with just having a can-do attitude and just appreciating the opportunity to be able to do what you do.”
His passion for his work extends beyond his enjoyment of taking things apart and then putting them back together. Akinlana has a deep sense of the impact of his work.
“Ingeteam provides something imperative for preserving and conserving the future environment, not only for ourselves but for our children and generations to come,” he said. “Because we know that we have not learned to discipline ourselves from gluttonous consumption, we have to have green energy.”
“This job aligns with my personal social responsibility.” Akinlana continued. “It’s nice to work for an entity where you share a passion for ensuring that we preserve our environment. Being an avid outdoorsman, being out in nature with my children, fishing, and hiking, it’s important to me that I give back. To be able to work doing something that allows me to do that, I think is absolutely profound.”
His team appreciates his passion and skills. Garan Chivinski is the Human Resources Manager at Ingeteam and the one who introduced him to RENEW Wisconsin.
“He’s a wealth of knowledge,” Garan said. “We’re seeing a time when those units [wind turbine generators] are coming back in, and they need to be serviced. They need some love and care to renew themselves and not create excess waste that they weren’t intended to create. AK [Akinlana] has really led that here for us, to get absolutely every single last spin, every single last value out of that resource possible for our customers and for the community. That’s why when you asked about somebody who might be your boots on the ground, somebody who’s the future of the wind industry in Wisconsin, this is the guy.”
Akinlana IS a wealth of knowledge. He’s also the kind of person who considers his work and actions and their effect on the world. This kind of thoughtfulness and passion is inspiring, and it’s easy to see why he is so respected and valued at Ingeteam.
“It’s nice to watch Elon Musk trying to fly off into another part of space,” Akinlana added. “But ultimately, when you see them go up in the rocket, you’re just going into another part of where you already are. Interesting, right? The reality is that we have this one small globe to live on, and no amount of money will get you away from that reality. Even if you set up something on Mars, you would have to come back here to get resources to live off of there. We have this [Earth], and we have to take care of this. Our level of consumption without trying to curb the adverse effects is damaging for the future. So that’s why this work is really, really important to me. I enjoy it every day. It’s not even work, not work at all.”
On Sunday, May 22, RENEW Wisconsin, with presenting sponsor, Xcel Energy, hosted the 9th Annual “Ride with RENEW” bike ride fundraiser in Eau Claire, WI. Starting at Carson Park, the 16-mile route featured the Chippewa River State Trail and Lakeshore Trail. Over 20 riders enjoyed a chilly spring day pedaling and learning about the innovative renewable energy installations powering Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The first stop of the 2022 tour was Solar Forma. Brian Graff showed riders the company’s unique solar designs, including E-cacia trees, their signature product. Solar Forma wants to expand its solar designs to include a solar “wave” carport with electric vehicle charging.
Next, riders visited Xcel Energy’s Sky Park Solar Garden. Julie Thoney and Zeus Stark provided an up-close look at the 1MW community solar garden at Sky Park, and riders also learned about Xcel’s three other Wisconsin community solar gardens. Xcel was the first investor-owned utility in the country to propose a net-zero carbon goal. They’re looking to expand their renewable portfolio in all operating states, including Wisconsin.
The next stop on the ride was Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Energy Education Center. Adam Wehling and Zeus Stark showed riders a variety of renewable energy generation sources on display, including several solar layouts and multiple small wind turbines, which is the same equipment CVTC uses in their class lessons. Riders also heard from Claire Lindstrom from the Couillard Solar Foundation about their work to make solar more accessible to public schools and mission-based organizations throughout the state. The Couillard Solar Foundation supplied 80 kilowatts of solar panels to CVTC, which provides approximately 40% of the electricity consumed at the Energy Education Center.
The final stop of the 2022 Ride was the home of long-time friend and former board member of RENEW, Ellen Terwilliger. Over the last decade, Ellen and her husband Steve installed four geothermal wells for heating and 15 kilowatts of solar PV, offsetting around 80% of their energy needs. The property also contains electric-vehicle charging, native prairie grasses, and several rain barrels. The Terwilligers even removed and reinstalled a south-facing rooftop to optimize their solar panels!
Our 2022 Ride with RENEW ended back at Carson Park with Toppers pizza and a brief address from Jim McDougall discussing his work to install solar on Eau Claire schools. Thanks to Eau Claire, local Ride leader Jeremy Gragert, and all of our riders, donors, and sponsors. Stay tuned for information on our 2023 Ride!
2022 RIDE WITH RENEW SPONSORS
Director, SolarShare WI Cooperative
This year’s theme for Earth Day was “Invest In Our Planet.” There are many ways to invest in our planet, and I’m excited to announce a brand-new opportunity created in part by RENEW that allows everyday people to invest in Wisconsin’s clean energy economy.
SolarShare WI Cooperative is an innovative cooperative model that helps Wisconsin residents and businesses invest in solar cooperative farms. Working together, our members pool money to invest in solar farms located in Wisconsin, reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels and strengthening our economy with stable, affordable, renewable energy for our local utilities.
How does SolarShare WI Cooperative Work?
SolarShare WI Cooperative works with Wisconsin-based member contractors to finance, build, operate and maintain the cooperative solar farms, creating family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin and reducing our reliance on energy from outside the state. Profits from the sale of our clean energy are returned to members as dividends, multiplying the economic benefit of our projects.
Cooperative action is woven into the fabric of rural Wisconsin and allows small groups of people to achieve great things. Whether pooling dairy or providing electricity, cooperatives play crucial roles in Wisconsin communities.
Wisconsin imports 14 billion dollars’ worth of non-renewable energy each year. We can keep more of our energy dollars in Wisconsin by working together to invest in local renewable energy.
We plan to build solar farms across the state, partnering with local communities and utilities to provide cost-effective renewable energy while providing financial opportunities to Wisconsin citizens and ratepayers. The investment we make in cooperative solar farms is an investment in our state and, ultimately, our planet.
Please join us at SolarShare WI Cooperative for more information.
RENEW Wisconsin has launched two state-wide communications campaigns to promote the benefits of clean energy investments in Wisconsin. The two campaigns, “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin,” include print and digital ads and shareable communications assets for partners and clean energy advocates.
Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 70,000 strong, with good-paying local jobs like installing solar and electric vehicle charging stations, manufacturing energy storage systems, servicing wind turbines, and retrofitting buildings. Clean energy job growth is gaining momentum from state and federal clean energy and electric transportation commitments, federal funds to support these goals, and an increased interest in clean energy investments from the public sector. The “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” campaign highlights the job potential of continued investment in electric transportation and Wisconsin clean energy.
“Over the next five years, Wisconsin can expect to receive $79 million in federal funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law,” said Francisco Sayu, Emerging Technologies Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “Wisconsin will also have the opportunity to apply for $2.5 billion in competitive grant funding dedicated to electric vehicle corridors and community charging. Building a network of electric vehicle charging stations will reduce emissions, improve air quality, and create thousands of good-paying jobs and is a tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin residents.”
In 2019, Governor Evers set a goal that all electricity consumed in the state will be 100% carbon-free by 2050, and in 2022 introduced Wisconsin’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. Currently, renewable energy only accounts for 13% of all electricity sold in Wisconsin. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wisconsin consumes almost six times as much energy as it produces and spends billions on coal, oil, and natural gas every year. The “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” campaign presents a vision of keeping more energy dollars in-state by investing in homegrown renewable energy.
“State and federal investments are moving us toward our clean energy goals, but we need to maximize the benefits of this energy transition for Wisconsin residents,” said Heather Allen, Executive Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “We will need an ‘all of the above’ and ‘all hands on deck’ approach to shape our clean energy future. This means smart investments in homegrown renewable energy and clean transportation.”
Print and digital ads are already circulating in media outlets across the state. To learn more and help amplify Wisconsin’s clean energy opportunities, please visit the “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” landing pages.