In what could be the first third-party-owned solar electric system installed this decade in Wisconsin. Monona’s proposed four-array 156 kilowatt project could test the legality of third-party renewable energy installations in the state. Wisconsin’s murky policy regarding third party ownership combined with the economic growth experienced by states that expressly support it, emphasizes the need for clarification. Dan Haugen’s informative article with comments from RENEW’s Michael Vickerman provides a snapshot of the current debate in the context of the Monona project and what RENEW’s Clean Energy Choice proposal could do for projects like it.

By Dan Haugen

Can a Wisconsin city buy solar power from someone other than its electric utility? A Madison suburb may soon find out the answer. 

The Monona City Council discussed Monday what could be a first-of-its-kind solar project in Wisconsin. 

A private company would install solar arrays on four municipal buildings at no upfront cost to the city. The installer would then own and maintain the systems over the life of a contract and sell the renewable energy credits they earn to the city of Monona. 

“The city has committed to being an energy-independent community and increasing our use of renewables,” Monona project manager Janine Glaeser said, “and this looks like a good way to do that without the upfront capital costs.” 

One possible hitch: Wisconsin law is unclear about whether so called “third-party-owned” solar systems, in which neither the customer nor their utility owns the panels, are legal in the state.