Conservative Group Launches a New Voice for Clean Energy

Conservative Group Launches a New Voice for Clean Energy

A press conference was held yesterday at the State Capitol to announce the launch of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, a right-leaning, state-based voice for clean energy. 
Headlined by Former Governor Tommy Thompson as a Board Member, the group plans to articulate a positive narrative on clean energy, emphasizing its emergence as a cost-effective source of new jobs and business opportunities.
Scott Coenen, a former staff person for State Senator Howard Marklein, is the group’s Executive Director.
To learn more about this new effort, you can visit the organization’s web site and check out an interview published in Midwest Energy News.
As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Scott Coenen, the group’s new executive director, insisted the group would be focused not on lobbying for bills but on converting Republicans to the potential benefits — and jobs — coming from technologies such as solar and wind power.”

“Conservatives need to emphasize the development of cheap, reliable and cost-effective energy,” said Coenen, a former aide to GOP Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green. “To do that, we need to recognize that advances in technology increasingly mean renewable and alternative energy fits that description: cheap, reliable and cost-effective.”

‘Solar for Good’ Grant Program far Exceeds Expectations

‘Solar for Good’ Grant Program far Exceeds Expectations

‘Solar for Good’ grant program far exceeds expectations, seeks additional supporters to help Wisconsin nonprofit organizations “go solar”

Demand for a new program of solar energy grants for mission-based nonprofit organizations has far surpassed expectations, according to RENEW Wisconsin, a state-based renewable energy advocacy organization. As a result, the program’s funders and organizers are seeking additional contributors to provide funding for all qualifying nonprofit organizations who applied.

Business owners Cal and Laurie Couillard of Deerfield conceived of and seed-funded the program, called Solar for Good, which was designed and administered by RENEW Wisconsin. (See “Wisconsin Businessman Creates Fund to Help Nonprofits Go Solar” from WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio.)

Solar for Good announced in October that it would award a total of $125,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and houses of worship to provide them with up to 20% of the cost of installing solar electric systems.

But demand for the grants exceeded organizers’ expectations. When the application period closed on November 13th, 23 organizations across Wisconsin had applied for over $222,000 to support their solar projects, leaving a gap of $97,000 that the program seeks to raise from other donors.

If all of the grant requests were funded, the program would support over 1,100 kilowatts of solar installations worth $2,400,000.

“The initial contribution has the potential to leverage 20 times its original value in solar installations,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “The fund was started by a single family, but with the level of interest we’ve seen, the dream is that we would grow this initiative to support all 23 of the projects. If there are other philanthropists out there who care about renewable energy and want to invest in local community organizations, we encourage them to reach out to RENEW Wisconsin and consider donating.”

A diverse group of nonprofit organizations applied for the solar grants, including a food pantry near Madison, an organization that serves homeless veterans in Racine, and several houses of worship including a mosque, a synagogue, and many churches. The applicants were asked to demonstrate their ability to serve social justice, low income, educational, or other mission-driven purposes, as well as demonstrate their ability to raise the remaining funds and educate their memberships and communities about solar energy when the projects are complete.

With solar installation costs falling dramatically and public enthusiasm on the rise, more and more people and businesses have installed solar in recent years, and the program seeks to expand the benefits of solar to not-for-profit organizations. By installing their own solar PV systems, these organizations will be able to generate their own clean, renewable energy, save money on their utility bills, and reinvest the energy cost savings back into their work.

“The idea is that if we can install solar panels on churches and other nonprofits, then all the people that are going there will also see this happening. I want to spread the message that solar is not just green for the environment, it’s green monetarily. You can actually save money doing it. It pays for itself. And I want to get that word out because I don’t think a lot of people know it,” said program founder Cal Couillard.

How to donate
Individuals can learn more and donate at

To make a larger donation, please contact Tyler Huebner at RENEW Wisconsin: or 608-255- 4044 extension 1.

Organic Valley: First Wisconsin Business to Commit to 100% Renewable Power

Organic Valley: First Wisconsin Business to Commit to 100% Renewable Power

Photo courtesy Organic Valley

Organic Valley is set to become the largest the largest U.S. food supplier and the first Wisconsin business to go 100% renewably powered. The LaFarge-based dairy cooperative unveiled plans last week to partner with a municipal power supplier to acquire renewable energy credits (RECs) from several solar arrays to be constructed and energized next year.

When the arrays are operational, Organic Valley will be able to supply all of its Wisconsin operations with wind power and solar power generated in the Dairy State. With this announcement, Organic Valley joins a rapidly growing roster of companies that have committed to powering their entire operational footprint with renewable energy. 

“Our future demands bold new thinking about our sources of energy, and there is nothing more natural to a farmer than harnessing the power of the sun and the wind,” said George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of Organic Valley. “So our cooperative is committed to achieving 100% renewable power, and doing it in partnership with the rural communities where we live and work.”

Organic Valley’s REC purchase will provide financial support for the development of 12 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity in western Wisconsin. Though the electricity from these arrays will flow to member utilities in the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group (UMMEG), the contract enables Organic Valley to count that solar output towards its own renewable energy goals. Both UMMEG and the solar developer, OneEnergy Renewables, are working to attract other potential REC purchasers to achieve a total project build-out of 29 MW.

“The cost of electricity is going to be reduced over the life of these systems for everyone in these communities,” said Stanley Minnick, energy services manager at Organic Valley.

Until this announcement, Organic Valley’s investments in local renewable generation had taken the form of rooftop arrays on its LaFarge and Cashton facilities and a two-turbine, five MW wind power installation adjacent to its Cashton distribution center. Today, those facilities account for about 60% of Organic Valley’s electricity usage. But to attain a goal of 100% renewable energy for its operational footprint, Organic Valley needs to expand its renewable energy supplies beyond what can be produced from its behind-the-meter installations.

Organic Valley’s arrangement with UMMEG and OneEnergy Renewables purchase is emblematic of a broader trend among U.S. corporations and institutions, namely the purchase larger quantities of renewable energy or REC’s from new off-site generators. Indeed, there is clearly a growing comfort level among utilities and independent developers to supply both corporate and residential customers with solar power generated from off-site solar facilities. 

Photo courtesy Organic Valley
In addition to increasing its own use of renewable power and helping farmers in its vendor network invest in wind and solar energy, Organic Valley is a sponsor of RENEW’s annual energy policy summit held in January in Madison.

A RENEW business member, OneEnergy Renewables has committed to landscape each of the project arrays with native grasses that will provide a home for bees and butterflies. In addition to its solar venture with UMMEG and Organic Valley, the Seattle-based solar developer will also build a one megawatt solar garden in Cashton in 2018 to supply the community solar program offered by Xcel Energy’s Wisconsin utility.
Another Excellent “Ride with RENEW” Bike Tour!

Another Excellent “Ride with RENEW” Bike Tour!

On Sunday, October 1st, RENEW Wisconsin, with presenting sponsor SunPeak, hosted its 5th annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour of renewable energy projects, with this year’s ride taking place in Middleton, WI.  All event proceeds supported RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Check out all the photos on our Facebook photo album!

Our biggest bike event yet, we had seventy-four riders who traveled approximately 25 miles on paved roads and bike paths to visit innovative wind, solar and biogas energy generation facilities in scenic northwest Dane County. Seven seasoned cyclists opted for the extended route of about 40 miles to travel at their own pace.

As a fundraising event, we are proud to announce that we raised over $20,000 from 203 donations (so far)!  This amount will be matched with $15,000 from John & Mary Frantz and another $5,000 from a private donor.

Participants got an inside look at some of the area’s leading renewable energy projects and enjoyed breakfast, lunch (pizza donated by Glass Nickel Pizza), and beverages (post ride beer donated by Capital Brewery) along the way. They visited with installers and workers who are advancing renewable energy every day, and heard from customers about why clean energy works for their pocketbooks and their businesses.

Riders gathered at Sustainable Engineering Group’s net-zero solar powered office in downtown Middleton. They checked in and enjoyed an open house hosted by Sustainable Engineering Group staff.

The first stop of the ride was Gundersen Health Systems & Dane County Biodigester. This project converts manure to make enough electricity to power approximately 2,500 homes while keeping manure out of the watershed.

Next, we visited Madison Gas & Electric’s Middleton Shared Solar project, a large 500 kilowatt solar project on the roof of the Middleton Operations Center. Subscribers to this pilot shared solar program receive the benefits of locally generated solar power from a centralized solar project.

Presenting sponsor, SunPeak, led a discussion on one of their projects, the PDQ in downtown Middleton. The solar panels installed on this store showcase the market advances of solar alongside traditional fuels.

Riders enjoyed a pizza lunch donated by Glass Nickel Pizza.

After lunch, we rode north to Epic’s “Galactic” Wind Farm, featuring six turbines along the rolling hills northwest of Madison which generate enough electricity.

The ride concluded with refreshments at Capital Brewery, also powered by a set of solar panels.

Sponsors of the Event included SunPeak (presenting sponsor), Sustainable Engineering Group, Capital Brewery, City of Middleton, H&H Solar, UW Madison Engineering Professional Development, Summit Credit Union, Wegner CPAs, Full Spectrum Solar, One Energy Renewables, Glass Nickel Pizza, Midwest Solar Power, Madison Solar Consulting, Keyes & Fox, Sustainable Technologies, Open Circle UUF, and Willy Street Co-op.

Site Visit to HellermannTyton’s Milwaukee Factory

Site Visit to HellermannTyton’s Milwaukee Factory

by Tyler Huebner

Last month, Nick Korth, the Product Marketing Manager for Energy at HellermannTyton, invited me to visit their Milwaukee factory.

This is an impressive operation.  HellermannTyton manufactures and distributes a number of parts that make solar installations possible, all across America.

Nick Korth of HellermanTyton shows off a very small clip, for which
thousands would be used for a single utility-scale solar project.  In his
hand is a sample kit of zip ties, plastic parts, and safety labels used to
comply with electrical codes for solar projects of all sizes.

From zip ties for wire management to small clips that are used in each panel, HellermannTyton makes millions of these small parts which go in everything from rooftop solar for homes to utility scale projects.

The company is also a leader in ensuring compliance with electrical codes.  From wire management to labeling, the company helps solar installers ensure their projects are installed correctly and safely.

HellermannTyton makes this equipment right in Wisconsin, but sells it to solar projects all over the country.  They have a number of assembly lines with huge presses for making both plastic and metal parts.

In addition, the company makes wire management systems for automobiles. Nick explained how the system below is for a modern gasoline-powered vehicle.  He said the same types of wire harnesses for electric cars are at about twice as long and twice as thick.

HellermannTyton is one example of many Wisconsin-based companies building the parts necessary to enable a clean energy transition, both for solar power and electric vehicles.  Thank you, Nick, for the tour and education, and we look forward to seeing your products in more and more Wisconsin-based projects in the years to come!

Press Release: New ‘Solar for Good’ program to fund  Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to install solar energy

Press Release: New ‘Solar for Good’ program to fund Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to install solar energy

Wednesday September 20, 2017,

Immediate Release
For More Information
Klausing, RENEW Wisconsin
x5, 614-406-1105
Solar for Good, a new initiative from the renewable
energy advocates at RENEW Wisconsin,
will offer grant funding to assist mission-based Wisconsin nonprofit
organizations with installing solar panels on their facilities.

The grant program was created and funded entirely by a donation from local
philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard
of Deerfield.

With solar
installation costs falling dramatically and public enthusiasm on the rise, more
and more people and businesses have installed solar in recent years, and the
program seeks to expand the benefits of solar to not-for-profit organizations.
“We know
that the solar energy boom is having a positive impact on our Wisconsin communities,
from creating good local jobs to cleaning our air and water,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW
. “That’s why we are very excited to help more nonprofit
organizations and houses of worship, who are working every day to improve our
communities, join the solar movement.”

Solar for Good will award
a total of $125,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and houses of worship to
assist them in installing solar electricity systems. The grant program will
fund up to 20% of the cost of a solar project, with a grant cap of $10,000 for
solar projects sized less than 75 kW and a grant cap of $20,000 for projects 75
kW and above. Solar for Good will also offer small grants for technical
assistance, including professional solar site assessments and engineering
services, to get projects started and see them through to success.

By installing their own solar projects, these
organizations will be able to generate their own clean, renewable energy, save
money on their utility bills, and reinvest the energy cost savings back into
their missions.

RENEW Wisconsin and Solar for Good aim to use the grants to help
organizations going solar to spread the word about their solar investments and
educate their communities about the benefits of solar energy.
The cost of installing solar panels has fallen by over half
in the past
five years. With these lower
costs, we have an opportunity to make sure that all segments of our community can
receive the many benefits of solar energy, including a lower electricity bill
and an energy source we can feel good about,” said Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager at RENEW Wisconsin.  
“As leaders and messengers, these
organizations can demonstrate how solar energy really benefits everyone, not
just the traditional ‘early-adopters’.”
The fund was started by a single family, “but their dream is that we
would grow this initiative beyond a single round of funding,” added Huebner.
“If there are other philanthropists out there who care about renewable energy
and want to invest in local community organizations, we encourage them to reach
out to RENEW Wisconsin and consider supporting this new initiative.”

The program will run in concert with Focus on Energy rebates which are also
available for many nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin.  Beyond those rebates, homeowners and
businesses can take advantage of tax credits which enable them to lower the
costs of solar investment. This program is focused on mission-driven non-profits
who would not benefit from those tax credits.

How to Apply
can learn more and apply at
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 grant, all fundraising, design and installation
for the solar project must be completed within 12 months. The program is geared
towards mission-based, primarily 501(c)3 organizations, and is not designed for
local governments or schools.
for this round of funding must be received by Monday November 13th 2017. 
Decisions and funding announcements
will be made by Monday December 11th, 2017.

For organizations
looking at solar 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 grants for solar installation and will be awarded on a
first-come, first-served basis. 

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, and geothermal energy. More information is available on RENEW’s