Solar + Storage Cleans Up in 2023

Solar + Storage Cleans Up in 2023

Current crop of solar projects culminates with two more PSCW approvals, totaling 1,300 megawatts for the year

Wisconsin’s transition to zero-emission power plants continues to pick up speed. This year alone the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) issued construction permits for six large-scale solar power projects (see Table 1 below). 

With the recent approvals of Elk Creek in Dunn County and Langdon Mills in Columbia County, this year’s crop of PSCW-approved solar power projects will clock in at 1,300 megawatts (MW), the largest annual increase of solar power to date. For comparison purposes, the PSCW approved 614 MW of new solar generating capacity in 2022 and 1,125 MW in 2021.  

2023 Solar Power Plants Approved by PSCW

Project Name Docket Number* County of Location Developer Generation Capacity Battery Storage (in MW + MWh)
Portage 9810-CE-100 Portage National Grid 250 137.5/550
Saratoga 9816-CE-100 Wood Savion 150 52.5/210
Northern Prairie 9815-CE-100 St. Croix Leeward 150 0/0
High Noon 9814-CE-100 Columbia Invenergy 300 165/660
Elk Creek 9819-CE-100 Dunn Tyr Energy 300 76.5/300
Langdon Mills 9818-CE-100 Columbia Ursa (Samsung) 200 50/200

Five of the six approved projects this year will incorporate battery energy storage systems (BESS), with a combined total of approximately 480 MW.  Onsite storage enhances the solar output by storing excess production that occurs in the morning or early afternoon for use later that day. With the capability of providing grid support after sundown, combining solar power with storage capacity will reduce the need for generation from other utility sources during late afternoon peak periods.

Albany Solar, Green County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

Albany Solar, Green County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

By themselves, the Class of 2023 solar projects can generate between 2.5 and 2.6 million megawatt-hours (MWh) annually, which would equate to about 3.5% of electricity sales today. These projects, when placed in service, will usher in a wide variety of tangible benefits to host communities, utility ratepayers, and the state as a whole. In all six proceedings before the PSCW, RENEW submitted testimony advocating for their approval and describing how each project would further progress in reducing the electric power industry’s carbon footprint. This is in addition to diversifying the utilities’ energy generation fleet with in-state renewable energy resources.

Environmental Benefits

The core of RENEW’s testimony involved documenting how each of these proposed projects would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector and bring the state closer to achieving its carbon reduction goals. In 2022, electric power providers in Wisconsin discharged an average of 1,185 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour (MWh) generated, a higher emissions rate than those of neighboring states (see Table 2).

State Power Sector Emission Rates in 2022

State Lbs./MWh
Illinois 639
Iowa 789
Michigan 1,096
Minnesota 833
Wisconsin 1,185

Source: Energy Information Administration, State Electricity Profiles, 2022

Unlike coal plants and gas turbines, solar arrays do not produce any emissions or wastes while generating electricity. For the foreseeable future, each new solar plant should displace fossil-fueled generation during the day, which will measurably reduce the volume of airborne pollutants and greenhouse gases discharged by Wisconsin utilities.

As the PSCW observed in the Langdon Mills case, “renewable generation projects such as this one promote public health and welfare by generally avoiding most of the impacts created by other types of electricity generation.” The final decision in that proceeding cited a host of positive environmental attributes stemming from solar projects on agricultural land, including “improving air and water quality, reducing agricultural nutrient runoff, enhanced plant and wildlife habitat, and more soil carbon sequestration.”

These projects, it should be remembered, do not represent a permanent conversion of farmland to another land use. Both the PSCW and project stakeholders expect the facilities to be decommissioned after operating for 35 years or so, and the land underneath them to revert to agricultural use.

Economic Benefits

The approved applications describe how the economic impacts from the solar investments would flow to the rural communities hosting these facilities. Typically, the construction phase creates demand for engineering operators, carpenters, delivery drivers, and other trades and crafts. Each new project creates job opportunities for local tradespeople and subcontractors, with the construction process lasting from 12 to 24 months. During construction, the income reaped by the project workforce is recirculated through nearby businesses such as restaurants, motels, and entertainment venues, recharging the local economy in the process.

Springfield Solar, Dodge County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

Springfield Solar, Dodge County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

Once a solar power plant begins generating electricity, it becomes subject to a gross receipts tax, which is shared with the townships and counties hosting the facility. Once the Class of 2023 plants are fully built and placed in service, they will pump $5.2 million into local government coffers each year they remain operational.

Springfield Solar, Dodge County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

Springfield Solar, Dodge County, 2023. Courtesy Alliant Energy.

Long-term economic benefits can take other forms besides tax revenues. For example, the Saratoga solar project would occupy land currently planted with stands of red pine trees. Due to the ongoing contraction of the pulp and paper industry in central Wisconsin, the market value of red pine growing stock has diminished substantially. Given that economic reality, one can expect landowners with large parcels to decouple their properties from the forest products industry and repurpose them for other uses, such as generating electricity from large-scale solar projects. As we concluded in our testimony, “both Wood County and the Town of Saratoga stand to benefit from a more diversified economic base, a benefit that power projects such as Saratoga Solar bring to the table.”

Project Pipeline is Close to Full

While construction can now begin on the Class of 2023 projects, Wisconsin electricity providers have not yet committed to incorporating any of them in their supply plans. Right now, there is a substantial cohort of solar projects working their way through the construction pipeline, totaling 1,439 MW (see Table 3). Project owners are working with their contractors to ensure that the majority of workers building these projects are Wisconsin residents. Given the very high demand for locally available equipment operators and skilled tradespeople, it is unlikely that we’ll see ground broken on any of the Class of 2023 projects until the projects under construction today are placed in service.

Utility-Scale Solar Power Projects Under Construction

Project Name County of Location Electric Utility Anticipated Start Date Generation Capacity (in MW)
Crawfish River Jefferson Allaint-WPL 4Q2023 75
Onion River Sheboygan Alliant-WPL 4Q2023 150
Springfield Dodge Alliant-WPL 4Q2023 100
Albany Green Allaint-WPL 4Q2023 50
Paddock Rock Allaint-WPL 4Q2023 65
Wautoma Waushara Allaint-WPL 4Q2023 99
Beaver Dam Dodge Allaint-WPL 4Q2023 50
Cassville Grant Allaint-WPL 1Q2024 50
Badger Hollow 2 Iowa WEC Energy/ MGE 1Q2024 150
Grant County Grant Alliant-WPL 2Q2024 200
Paris Kenosha WEC Energy/ MGE 4Q2024 200
Darien Walworth, Rock WEC Energy/ MGE 4Q2024 250
      Total 1,439 MW

Source: Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

When the construction underway wraps up, output from Wisconsin’s solar power sector should triple between November 2023 and January 2026. In that 26-month window, the number of working plants will rise from six to 18, and the combined generating capacity will increase from 650 MW today to 2,089 MW by then (see Table 4). 

Between now and July 2024, construction crews should complete work on Alliant Energy’s gigawatt-plus fleet of solar power projects. While three of Alliant’s 12 solar plants are operating today, the utility expects seven of the remaining nine units to go live between now and January 1, 2024. Most of the skilled laborers putting the finishing touches on Alliant’s remaining solar power plants are Wisconsin residents and belong to a union.

Annual additions of Utility-Scale

Year Utility-Scale Solar Generation Capacity Added (in MW) Cumulative Total (in MW) Output as a Percentage of Annual State Electricity Sales*
2020 150 150 0.49%
2021 250 400 1.2%
2022 250 650 1.9%
2023 (est.) 589 1,239 3.6%
2024 (est.) 850 2,089 6.1%

Planned Coal Plant Shutdowns Create Room for Solar Power

The ongoing expansion of utility-scale solar power enables Wisconsin electric providers to reduce their reliance on aging coal-fired generators. As these plants become more expensive to operate and maintain, utilities have initiated a generation makeover that will rely more heavily on renewable resources as well as gas-fired capacity. Output from the solar projects under development will be a key part of the resource mix, replacing the more than 2,500 MW of coal-fired capacity that will close for good in the next three years (see Table 5).

Current Coal Plant Retirement Schedule

Plant(s) Capacity (in MW) In-service Dates Utility Owner(s) Shutdown Date
South Oak Creek Units 5 + 6 528 1959, 1961 WEPCO 5/2024
South Oak Units 7 + 8 610 1965, 1967 WEPCO 12/2025
Edgewater 5 380 1985 WPL 6/2025
Columbia Units 1 + 2 1.023 1975, 1978 WPl/WPS/MGE 6/2026, 12/2026
Total 2,541 MW

In 2022, the South Oak Creek, Edgewater, and Columbia plants produced approximately 9.4 million MWh or 15% of the electricity sold in Wisconsin. It would require 4,700 MW of utility-scale solar capacity to generate an equivalent amount of electricity in a typical year. Between the 650 MW of solar power operating today, the 1,439 MW presently under construction, and the 1,300 MW represented by the six Class of 2023 projects, Wisconsin could have as much as 3,389 MW of operating solar generation by 2027. Should that happen, in-state solar power would account for 10% of the electricity serving Wisconsin electricity customers. 

As noted in the state’s Clean Energy Plan (page 109), “[u]tility-scale renewable generation plays a disproportionately large role in decarbonization, as it is very cost-effective, helps reduce the energy burden for all customers, and reduces emissions from fossil plants …. [emphasis added].” 

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

RENEW Wisconsin Hosts Electric School Bus Events

On Wednesday, September 20, RENEW Wisconsin held multiple events focused on the benefits electric school buses (ESB) can bring to Wisconsin. The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. RENEW worked with Lion Electric to bring an electric school bus to Wisconsin, promoting the health and financial benefits of clean transportation.

 To start the day, RENEW held private tours of a Lion Electric school bus for Republican Legislators in conjunction with the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum and private tours for Democratic Legislators in conjunction with Wisconsin Conservation Voters. Both events provided a platform for attendees to ask questions about the bus and program to Lion Electric and RENEW Staff.

After the private tours, RENEW and Lion Electric staff opened the electric bus tours to the public, inviting passersby and anyone interested to ride the bus around the Capitol and ask questions of the experts.

RENEW and Lion Electric ended the day at Forest Edge Elementary School, offering the opportunity to tour the bus, hear from students why they want to electrify their school’s transportation, and tour the Forest Edge facility, Wisconsin’s first net zero school!

RENEW was grateful for the opportunity to bring an electric school bus
to the public and private sectors. The EPA announced the opening of
its 2023 Clean School Bus Program on September 28, 2023, which will remain open until January 31, 2024. To learn more or ask questions about this
program, please reach out to us at

Speeches from Forest Edge: 

Why do fifth graders want Electric School Buses? 
Why do Seniors want Electric School Buses?

Happy National Andrew Day!

Happy National Andrew Day!

August 1st is National Andrew Day! RENEW sat down with our Andrew for the occasion.

Q: Hey, Andrew, when do you first hear about August 1 being ‘National Andrew Day’?

A: Just now, when you told me. 

Q: Now that you know, what do you think?

A: I’m a bit perplexed that I hadn’t heard about it before, to be honest. But mostly just stoked to be part of something bigger than me.

Q: So, you work on energy policy with RENEW Wisconsin. What’s that like?

A: Every day, I’m hustling for renewable energy in Wisconsin; it’s great! We educate, collaborate, and advocate – all good things. It’s something I’m passionate about, so it has been very fulfilling work. I also get to bring my dog, Mocha, into the office, and that makes everything better.

Specifically, I’m very proud of my collaborative work on our Zero Carbon Cost Benefit Analysis Report and Wisconsin’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 Report. 

Q: Tell us more about you, though; what it’s like to be an Andrew?

A: Oh, you know, ups and downs, strikes and gutters, little of this, little of that. Probably not much different from being a George or Tom or whatever. 

Q: Do you go by Andrew, Drew, Andy, or what’s your preference?

A: Whatever’s clever, I guess. By default, I say Andrew. Andy is cool, though. I went by Andy as a kid, but there’s a whole story there.

Q: Go on…

A: Well, my birthname was Andrew, but my folks called me Andy, which I think makes sense. You don’t want to patronize your son by calling him Andrew right out of the womb. You might as well adopt a British accent and say, ‘Does Sir Andrew want two lumps of sugar with his tea, or just one?’ So yeah, Andy made sense for the time and place. And I probably would have wanted three lumps because I was a baby, and tea is bitter.

Fast forward to middle school, and everyone started calling me by my surname, Kell, that is. Through high school and college I was pretty much just known as “Kell.” When I went to college, several high school friends went to the same college as me, and that trend just continued, for better or worse. A few professors called me Andy, but everyone else was like, ‘Kelldawg, what’s up?’ 

I’m not gonna bore you any further, but I think I bucked the whole ‘Kell’ thing sometime after college. Instead of introducing myself as Andy, I went with Andrew. Sounds a bit more sophisticated, right? I mean, I was now the holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, But that’s all ancient history now, and I’m ok with Andy or Andrew. I wouldn’t mind a Drew here and there, either. Maybe I should start introducing myself as Drew just for funsies.

Q: Well, ok, wow, that’s fascinating. Anyway, have you met many other Andrews in your time on this great planet of ours?

A: Yes, a ton. You know, I never came across that many until I moved to Madison. And now it’s like you can’t throw a stone without hitting an Andrew. 

When I worked at the PSC, I think they had an Andrew quota or something. There was like five to ten Andrews at any given moment when I was there. I labeled affectionately myself ‘Andrew #9’. I tried to adopt the ‘nanu-nanu’ greeting from Mork and Mindy as the official Andrew greeting while I was there, but I don’t think any of the other Andrews were as enthusiastic as I was.

Anyway, maybe I can find a pub full of Andrews on Aug 1 and kick-start that greeting nationwide this year. That’s my hope, at least. Just happy to be part of something bigger than me.

Q: Any parting words of wisdom?

A: Yeah, if you see me out on August 1, buy me a drink! I promise to tell a tale of one of my great Andrew adventures, and the words of wisdom I’m sure will flow. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and if a petition comes across your desk to make this an ‘International Andrew Day,’ please sign on that dotted line. 

With proper planning and policies in place, Wisconsin can follow this roadmap and reap the benefits of a zero-carbon future. This is just the start of a dialog on how Wisconsin can get to zero carbon emissions. 

Andrew Kell

Policy Director, RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Celebrates 30 Years of Advancing Clean Energy!

RENEW Celebrates 30 Years of Advancing Clean Energy!

On August 3rd, 2021, RENEW Wisconsin gathered with friends and supporters under Dane County’s new solar shelter near Lussier Family Heritage Center to celebrate 30 years of advancing clean energy in Wisconsin. The weather was beautiful, and after a long period of limited opportunities for gathering in person, it was a welcome moment of connection and joy!

It was wonderful to see longtime friends and clean energy champions. Attendees enjoyed appetizers, drinks, and live music, reminisced over Wisconsin’s clean energy history, and discussed new energy policy and legislative opportunities for growth in Wisconsin.

It is a busy time for energy policy in Wisconsin! We work with lawmakers and regulators to defend renewable energy. This summer RENEW staff are engaged on the forthcoming Clean Energy Plan, the Zero Carbon Roadmap docket, interconnection rules, parallel generation rates, utility rate cases, as well as, legislation on community solar and direct sales for electric vehicles. From distributed solar to energy storage we are expanding the renewable energy market in Wisconsin.

Since 1991, our vision has not changed – to have clean, renewable energy powering a strong, healthy, and vibrant Wisconsin.  We have made significant progress on our 30-year mission to lead and accelerate the transformation of Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. You can support our urgent work with a donation today.


In advance of the event, Governor Evers issued a proclamation commending RENEW Wisconsin on 30 years of work advancing clean energy

Several special guests joined us:

  • Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi
  • Don Wichert, RENEW Wisconsin Founder and Emeritus Board Member
  • Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin Policy Director
  • Eric Udelhofen, RENEW Wisconsin Board of Directors
  • and Stanley Minnick, Arch Electric, the evening’s emcee

Thank you to the Honey Pies for the music, Pasture and Plenty for the appetizers, Yellow Dog Farms for the flowers, Kai Brito for photos, and our sponsors Apex Clean Energy, Delta Beer Lab, eagleview, greenpenny, JDR Engineering Inc., PRC Wind, OneEnergy, and Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

This 30th anniversary would not be possible without the support of our members and partners. We thank you for joining us on this amazing journey to a stronger, healthier, more vibrant Wisconsin.

Missed our party but still want to celebrate?  Sign up today for our September 26th, Ride with RENEW in Madison.  Our annual bike ride will feature the Forest Edge Elementary School – the first net-zero school in Wisconsin!

EVs for Good Program Announcement

EVs for Good Program Announcement

UPDATE: The first grant cycle for EVs for Good closed Saturday, May 1, 2021. Applications for the second grant cycle are now being accepted on a rolling basis.

March 5th, 2021

RENEW is happy to announce EVs for Good, a new grant program created to foster the expansion of and transition to electric vehicles among nonprofits in Wisconsin. EVs for Good will reduce the upfront costs of purchasing an electric vehicle while reducing vehicle maintenance costs and transportation emissions. 

RENEW Wisconsin’s mission is to lead and accelerate the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. Transportation accounts for approximately 25% of Wisconsin’s energy use and emissions. This presents a huge opportunity to transition our state’s vehicles away from fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable electricity sources. Electrifying transportation will result in lower carbon emissions and improved air quality for all Wisconsinites. 

EVs for Good is possible thanks to a generous donation from Carol and Andy Phelps. The Phelps installed a solar array at their Middleton home in 2019 and recently purchased an electric vehicle to further reduce their carbon emissions. The Phelps are extremely happy with their shift from gasoline and want to ensure everyone has the same opportunity.

“Everyone thinks electric cars are only for rich people, but EVs are for everybody,” said Andy Phelps.

This interview of Carol and Andy Phelps explains why they are so passionate about the EVs for Good program.

EVs for Good will offer grants for 20% of the cost of an electric vehicle, with a maximum grant of $5,000. Larger grants, capped at $10,000, are available for organizations seeking to purchase an electric van or bus. In addition, $500 grants are available for organizations who choose to install Level 2 (or higher) electric vehicle charging equipment.

Preference will be given to organizations that work on issues related to social justice or education.   Preference will also be given to organizations that serve black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), low-income, or rural communities, as well as, those that serve children or seniors.


Nonprofits can apply for the following:

  • Vehicle Grant: Covers 20% of the cost of a new or used electric vehicle, with a $5,000 maximum amount. Grants may also cover 20% of an electric bicycle or an electric cargo bicycle purchase. 
  • Van or Bus Grant: Covers 20% of the cost of a new or used electric van or bus, with a maximum grant amount of $10,000. The vehicle must be able to transport eight or more persons safely.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Grant: $500 grant for nonprofits installing a Level 2 (or higher) electric vehicle charger.


Organizations that receive an EVs for Good grant must agree to promote their awards in their communities. This outreach can be a media event, an open house for the solar + charging infrastructure, a vehicle demonstration, or a “ride and drive” for an electric vehicle purchase.

Grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, with the initial grant cycle opening in Spring 2021. If all funds are not awarded in Spring 2021, grant applications will be accepted on a biannual basis until all funds are dispersed.

The initial grant cycle for EVs for Good opens on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Applications are due by Saturday, May 1, 2021. Questions can be emailed to

Renewable Energy Champions & Standout Projects Set to Receive Honors at RENEW’s 2018 Summit

Renewable Energy Champions & Standout Projects Set to Receive Honors at RENEW’s 2018 Summit

JANUARY 11, 2018

Tyler Huebner
(608) 255-4044 x1

RENEW’s seventh annual Renewable Energy Summit, set for January 18, 2018, will furnish the occasion for recognizing the leading lights in Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry and spotlighting the developments that made 2017 such a stellar year. Titled “Connecting to a Powerful Future,” RENEW’s Summit will take place at Monona Terrace in Madison; registration starts at 8:00 AM and the program runs from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. The recognition ceremony will begin at 2:00 PM.

Last year saw the first large-scale wind power plant go up in Wisconsin since 2011. Quilt Block, a 49-turbine, 98-megawatt (MW) project developed by Houston-based EDP Renewables is now online, producing power under contract to La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, whose four-state service area includes 18 member cooperatives and 10 municipal utilities in Wisconsin.

Representing a capital investment of $167 million, EDP’s Quilt Block project will produce enough renewable electricity to power more than 25,000 Wisconsin residences while providing millions of dollars in local aids to the Town of Seymour and Lafayette County, as well as lease payments to participating landowners over the plant’s operating life.

At the Summit, RENEW will honor Quilt Block Wind Farm as Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Project of the Year. Recognizing the strong collaboration forged by project participants, RENEW will present plaques to representatives of the developer (EDP Renewables), the utility purchaser (Dairyland Power Cooperative), local governments (Town of Seymour, Lafayette County), and participating landowners.

Last year marked the emergence of RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good, a program that provides grants to nonprofit institutions that seek to install solar electric systems on their buildings. Initiated by donations from Deerfield-based philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard, Solar for Good awarded 16 grants in 2017 supporting the installation of 573 kilowatts (kW) of new solar electric projects to serve such entities as public charter schools, food pantries, houses of worship, and nursing care facilities.

For their philanthropy that made possible the Solar for Good program, Cal and Laurie Couillard will receive honors as Renewable Energy Champions.

Also set to receive honors as Renewable Energy Champions are John and Mary Frantz, both retired physicians and long-time renewable energy advocates now living in Madison who have been generous supporters of RENEW Wisconsin’s work to expand renewable energy.  In recent years, their generosity has taken the form of providing matching donations to “Ride with RENEW,” a fundraising event held in autumn featuring bicycle tours of noteworthy renewable energy projects in Wisconsin.

The recognition segment will also draw attention to other milestones and notable achievements in 2017, including the following:

  • All 15 solar arrays built by SoCore Energy (Illinois) and GroSolar (Vermont) under contract to Dairyland Power are now producing electricity. Three of the arrays, located in New Auburn, Phillips, and Roberts, are the state’s largest in operation. 
  • Xcel Energy’s Wisconsin utility commissioned a 1 megawatt (MW) array in Eau Claire, which now supplies energy to its shared solar subscribers. 
  • SunPeak designed and built the state’s largest rooftop solar electric system in operation, a 1.2 MW array atop the American Family Insurance headquarters building in Madison.
  • Eagle Point Solar installed 350 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation atop two schools in the Northland Pines School District, which now has more solar capacity than any other K-12 district in Wisconsin. 
  • SunVest Solar and Current Electric teamed up to design and install 800 kW of solar capacity on six rooftops in the Oneida Nation reservation in Brown County.
  • Contractors partnered with local nonprofits to launch five residential group solar purchase programs across Wisconsin. Together these initiatives result in 158 installations totaling nearly 1,000 kW of new solar capacity.

“These award winners and honorable projects deserve recognition for the benefits they are bringing Wisconsin’s people and economy,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  “These honorees are leading the way towards a clean, vibrant, and self-sustaining Wisconsin energy future.”

For more information on the 2018 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit


RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization dedicated to renewable energy in Wisconsin. We advance and defend policies and programs that support solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, and geothermal energy. More information is available on RENEW’s Web site at