The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in many extraordinary measures to be taken by the federal, state, and local governments such as the “Safer at Home” order prohibiting groups of people from gathering and prohibiting some businesses from operating that pose a high risk of exposing their clientele to infections. These measures have resulted in a major impact on businesses in general and the solar industry in particular.
As a new affiliate of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) we will be bringing you updates that they they are able to share on the COVID 19 issue as well. There is a lot of information there, but check out these webpages first:
SEIA: Permitting Options for Solar Installations During the COVID-19 Outbreak
SEIA: Guidance for Solar Installers, EPCs and O&M Service Providers on Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
In Wisconsin, the construction industry, including solar, has been determined to be an “essential business” for the life-safety and infrastructure support benefits that it provides. Since this is new for everyone, the rules and guidance for how to operate in this environment are being created and amended regularly.
The leading solar and construction industry trade associations have developed excellent resources with FAQ’s on many of the important questions that contractors have such as:
Can contractors work inside buildings as well as outside?
Yes, but all essential businesses, to the greatest extent possible, are encouraged to use personal protective equipment where appropriate, use technology to avoid meeting in person when possible and engage in social distancing.
Do I need documentation to prove that I’m an “essential worker?” (ABC of Wisconsin)
Essential workers do not need documentation to prove they are essential, according to state agency staff. Police are generally not going to be stopping individuals and asking for proof. In some rare instances, construction employees have been asked to provide documentation to prove they are essential and exempt from the “safer at home” order. While not required, it may be helpful and prudent to provide your employees with a letter explaining their exemption from the emergency order.
Do I need to request any type of exemption for my business? (ABC of Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which is the government agency charged with determining whether businesses are “essential,” has indicated that if your type of business is listed (i.e. construction) there is no need to get a designation to become exempt; you are already included under exempt. If your business type is listed as essential, there is no further action required.
Am I required to have written COVID-19 response plan? (ABC of Wisconsin)
While it is not explicitly required in the state’s order, the WEDC encourages each business to develop a written COVID-19 response plan that is unique to each individual business and type of work being done.
If someone is positive with COVID-19, do I have to record in on my OSHA log? (ABC of Wisconsin)
Most likely, no. As an employer, you should determine whether there was any exposure that occurred in the work environment that caused or contributed to the test positive. As a practical matter, it is very difficult to do this and not practical to ascertain there was exposure on the worksite. OSHA would have to prove that the employee testing positive was work-related. If you have a COVID-19 case that results in a fatality or in-patient hospitalization, you would want to call OSHA. You would also likely be engaged with your local health department if this were to occur.
What steps should I be taking as a contractor employer? (ABC of Wisconsin)
Under the “General Duty” clause from OSHA, employers are to provide a safe and healthy workplace free from hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. Employers should follow the recommendations for the number of employees on a particular worksite and instruct employees on the practice of social distancing, or ensuring employees keep a six foot distance between one another while working. Employees should not share tools.
Employers should remind employees to take basic, preventative measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the workplace, including these recommendations:
• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
• avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth;
• covering sneezes or coughs with tissues, if possible, or else with a sleeve or shoulder;
• avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
• staying home when sick; and
• cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.
Employers should provide adequate supplies in the workplace for employees to follow these recommended practices.
CDC guidelines for protecting employees
ABC of Wisconsin Jobs Ambassador Rebecca Kleefisch discusses how contractors are addressing job site and employee safety and not taking lightly the declaration that construction is an “essential service” in Wisconsin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebRAC98RuAk&t=53s
The following websites are currently open to the public and you don’t have to be a member of the associations to access these resources.
Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin
Wisconsin Builders Association
Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin
Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee
Construction Coalition Issues Joint Statement on Jobsite Safety During COVID-19 outbreak:
“Fifteen labor and management organizations in Wisconsin committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public by issuing specific mitigation strategies to combat the COVID-19 outbreak on jobsites.”
State of Wisconsin COVID-19 Information Webpage
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
We will bring you further updates as they develop. If you have specific questions please contact Jim Boullion, RENEW Wisconsin’s Director of Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell phone at (608) 695-7004.
Press release from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
WASHINGTON, D.C. and MADISON, Wis. – The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the U.S. solar energy industry, announced today that RENEW Wisconsin is now a formal SEIA state affiliate.
RENEW Wisconsin becomes the 18th SEIA state affiliate.
“We are thrilled to welcome RENEW Wisconsin to our network and we look forward to collaborating on policy efforts that get the state’s solar market moving again,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “As we work toward recovery from COVID-19, Wisconsin has the potential to become a regional solar leader and generate thousands of new jobs for hard-working people in the state.”
Today, Wisconsin is ranked 34th nationally with 209 megawatts of installed solar electric generating capacity. There are nearly 3,000 solar jobs in the state and those jobs are at risk as a result of the global pandemic.
“RENEW Wisconsin is excited to build our network as a new SEIA Affiliate,” said Heather Allen, Interim Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Our SEIA partners around the country are an invaluable resource as we protect renewable energy now and find opportunities to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin when this health crisis is over. Investments in solar power will keep vital dollars and family-sustaining jobs in our communities, and offer cleaner, healthier air for all of Wisconsin.”
RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. The group works on policies and programs that expand solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy and electric vehicles. Since 1991 RENEW Wisconsin has been a champion for clean energy solutions in the Badger State.
SEIA has developed strategic partnerships with numerous state and regional advocacy non-profits, known as SEIA Affiliates. These organizations have demonstrated leadership on policy and regulatory matters, actively engaged with the solar industry in their respective territories and offered grassroots support for SEIA’s federal campaigns, among other accomplishments. We are proud to call them our partners in growing the U.S. solar industry.
To see a map of the current SEIA affiliates across the country, visit www.seia.org/affiliates.
The Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA) is leading the transformation to a clean energy economy, creating the framework for solar to achieve 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies and other strategic partners to fight for policies that create jobs in every community and shape fair market rules that promote competition and the growth of reliable, low-cost solar power. Founded in 1974, SEIA is a national trade association building a comprehensive vision for the Solar+ Decade through research, education and advocacy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has opened its sixth round of donations to help Wisconsin nonprofits install solar power. Grant applications are due Wednesday, May 1, 2020 at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood.
Since 2017, the Solar for Good program has partnered with 75 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to go solar. When completed, these organizations will have installed 91 solar arrays for a total of 3.24 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power nearly 700 households.
Solar for Good is administered by RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy nonprofit organization. Through a generous donation from the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good supplies winning nonprofits with solar panels to reduce the overall cost of installing solar power.
This is Solar for Good’s sixth award cycle, and the program has assisted nonprofits of all types and sizes across Wisconsin. The grantees include 25 houses of worship, 4 environmental conservation groups, 5 animal shelters, 17 schools and education centers, 2 veterans’ groups, and 20 housing providers.
To date, 45 organizations have completed installation of 51 solar arrays. Around $488,000 worth of grants have been dispersed from the Couillard Solar Foundation, and these grants have spurred over $4 million in solar investment across Wisconsin.
By accepting a Solar for Good award, nonprofits agree to promote the environmental and economic benefits of solar power to their communities. Winning organizations educate their members about solar power and are able to showcase their projects’ benefits.
Grant applications for Solar for Good must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020. RENEW Wisconsin plans on holding an additional round of Solar for Good funding in September of 2020.
How to apply for a solar grant
Organizations can learn more and apply at 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 solar panel award, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.
Applications for the Spring 2020 Solar for Good cycle must be received by Wednesday, May 1st 2020. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Wednesday, May 15th, 2020.
For organizations looking at solar power 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 solar panel awards and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
About Solar for Good
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy. More information can be found at www.renewwisconsin.org/solarforgood/.
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.
The Public Service Commission today cleared the path for the Badger Hollow solar farm to become a utility-owned generating asset in its entirety. Approved in April 2019 and now under construction, the 300 megawatt (MW) plant in western Iowa County will soon be co-owned by a third utility, Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO). Chicago-based Invenergy is the developer for Badger Hollow and will oversee the construction process until its completion in 2021
As a result of today’s action, WEPCO and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) will jointly acquire a 150 megawatt share of this facility, which should start sending power into the grid by the end of 2020. Shares of the 300 MW solar farm will be divided equally between WEPCO, MGE, and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service.
After reviewing the applicants’ filings, the PSC determined that both MGE and WEPCO need new generating capacity in the near future, and that this 150 MW increment of Badger Hollow would be part of the least-cost expansion plan for both utilities.
RENEW submitted a letter of support for the acquisition, as did the cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Calling attention to the state’s clean energy goals as well as those of the two cities and the utilities that serve them, our comments emphasized the economic and environmental value that Badger Hollow will yield to utility customers as well as to project participants, host communities, and the state as a whole.
The PSC’s approval effectively brings the first chapter of utility-scale solar development in Wisconsin to a close. Since June 2018, the PSC has reviewed four proposals to build nearly 700 MW of in-state renewable generating capacity, and gave the green light to all of them. The following table summarizes these projects and their relationships to Wisconsin electricity providers.
||Capacity (in MW)
||Location (by county)
||WEPCO (100 MW)
MGE (100 MW)
WPS (100 MW)
||WPS (100 MW)
MGE (50 MW
|Badger State Solar
||Dairyland Power Cooperative
The next wave of solar farms will begin washing through the state regulatory review process this spring. The first one out of the gate is the Paris Solar Farm, located in Kenosha County. Invenergy’s application to build the 200 MW solar farm was submitted yesterday. Dockets have been opened for several other prospects in Wisconsin. Listed below are the solar farm projects that we anticipate will be reviewed by the PSC this year.
||Capacity (in MW)
||Location (by county)
Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved another solar farm: the Badger State Solar Farm to be located in Jefferson County, Wisconsin.
Badger State will be a 149-megawatt solar farm, and will supply electricity to Dairyland Power Cooperative. Dairyland is a wholesale energy provider for 24 rural electric cooperatives, 18 of which are located in Wisconsin. Dairyland also provides energy to an additional seventeen municipal electric utilities, ten of which are in Wisconsin.
The solar project’s developer is Ranger Power, one of RENEW Wisconsin’s Business Members.
This project marks the fourth solar farm approved by the Wisconsin PSC in the past 9 months, and the solar projects approved now total 699 megawatts. Badger State should be operational by 2021.
The project is expected to generate enough renewable energy to power over 20,000 homes, according to a Dairyland Power news release from March 2019, when their power purchase agreement was announced.
The project was given a unanimous verbal approval today, and a final order will follow in the next few weeks. This was the final decision made by retiring Commissioner Mike Huebsch, who announced his retirement earlier this month.
RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner said, “The Badger State Solar will continue Wisconsin’s steady march towards a clean, renewable energy future, and will help Dairyland Power Cooperative meet its goals to increase the sustainability and diversity of its power generation sources. Congratulations to Ranger Power and Dairyland Power Cooperative on this project approval!”
Statistics about the Badger State Solar Farm
- 149 megawatts
- Expected to produce enough electricity for about 20,000 Dairyland Power Cooperative customers each year
- Electricity Production will be about 0.4% of Wisconsin’s total 2018 electricity sales, and about 8% of Dairyland Power’s 2018 Wisconsin retail sales.
- Located on approximately 1,200 acres which is 0.5% of Jefferson County’s farmland
- The project developer expects to utilize pollinator-friendly plants under the solar panels that will help rejuvenate the soil underneath the array.
- Under Wisconsin’s energy generation shared revenue law and renewable energy incentive payment laws, the local governments where the arrays are located will receive a substantial economic boost: Jefferson County will receive approximately $348,000 annually, the Town of Jefferson $125,000 annually, and the Town of Oakland $123,000 annually.
Statistics about the 4 solar farms approved by the PSC
Badger Hollow Solar (Iowa County), Two Creeks Solar (Manitowoc & Kewaunee Counties), Point Beach Solar (Manitowoc County), and now Badger State Solar (Jefferson County) received PSC approvals between April 2019 and January 2020.
- Total of 699 megawatts of solar power production
- Expected to produce enough power for about 178,000 average Wisconsin homes’ annual energy consumption
- This amount of electricity produced would be about 2.0% of Wisconsin’s total 2018 electricity sales
- These four projects will be located on approximately 5,300 acres of land, about 0.05% of Wisconsin’s farmland. In total Wisconsin has approximately 34,700,000 acres of land.
- The hosting local governments (townships and counties) will receive $2,796,000 annually once these four projects are operational.