Groups Across Wisconsin Focus On Creating More Solar Power WUWM 89.7 FM
Solar power generation is seen as essential for a clean energy transition. As WUWM’s Earth Week series continues, environmental journalist Susan Bence takes a look at Wisconsin’s solar climate.
On the southeast edge of the Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, there is a sea of solar panels. They cover about three acres right next to the Wisconsin Air National Guard base’s supply wing.
Brendon Conway of WE Energies says the project is part of the company’s Solar Now program.
“Each of our, so far, 16 Solar Now projects that are running uses space that otherwise just wouldn’t be used or underused, and now they’re delivering real value and all that energy. will serve our customers, ”says Conway.
The property remains the property of the City of Milwaukee, while the installation of 2.25 megawatt solar panels – enough to power 500 to 600 homes, is owned by WE Energies.
Elizabeth Hittman, sustainability program manager for the Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office, says the city is eager to partner with solar projects.
Extended conversation: Groups across Wisconsin focus on creating more solar power
“We are encouraging home and business owners to install solar power – looking at solar and renewable energy for city owned buildings, so overall we are really trying to get as much energy. solar and renewable as possible, ”says Hittman.
Statewide, the equivalent of 62,700 Wisconsin households are powered by solar energy, according to RENEW Wisconsin. RENEW political analyst Andrew Kell said that historically the state has fallen in the middle of the pack, both nationally and regionally, when it comes to solar development.
But Wisconsin is pale compared to neighboring Minnesota.
“This is due to many progressive policies that Minnesota has had to demand from utilities to develop solar power, as well as the recognition of the full value of solar power, integrating resource planning and planning. other policies to incentivize utility scale as well as customer-owned solar power, ”says Kell.
But Heather Allen, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, believes the state is in a position to take the leap to meet or exceed the solar position of other states.
Allen points to the budget proposed by Governor Tony Evers. “There are 28 provisions on clean energy and climate in [there],” she says.
Allen says more and more communities are not waiting for the state government to act on solar power.
“Something that’s going on in a few rural communities, they’re creating energy districts – locally identifying issues and solutions to help manage their own energy – and it’s very exciting to see people, to understand that they have a interest in the game. and a role to play, ”she said.
Chuck Tennessen is one of those people. Tennessen is the co-creator of the Iowa County Clean Local Energy Alliance – Now (CLEA-N), which works to promote local ownership of clean energy sources in southwestern Wisconsin County.
“We’re standing here in a substation and it’s just below a south sloping field. With the substation here and the layout of the land, it’s really a great place to look for a small solar panel, ”he says.
As CLEA-N negotiates with the local utility to try to make the project as user-friendly and carbon-neutral as possible, Tennessen says it takes time and human energy to convince other residents to get involved.
So Tenessen’s group started reaching out with light bulbs – LEDs, of course, and a lot of them.
“We have given or traded 7,050 LED bulbs in Iowa County to 1,100 households. We estimate the dollar savings over the life of these bulbs will be over half a million dollars and annually we will save 200 metric tonnes of emissions, ”he says.
To create a sustainable clean energy future, it is essential to create clean energy jobs. Back in Milwaukee, in the Walnut Way neighborhood, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association is piloting a solar construction training project.
Program manager Amanda Schienebeck says the program is also being piloted in Evansville, Indiana; Minneapolis and Detroit.
“We raised approximately $ 30,000 to provide scholarships. We’re doing the lab day here, where they’re setting up the solar module system. And after that, they’re all eligible for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NAPCEP) certification exam, which would give them that industry certification to pursue a career in the solar industry, ”says Schienbeck.
Damien Johnson listens intently to the solar instructor. Due to the pandemic, the program is virtual and this is Johnson’s first time gaining experience in the field.
“It was a whole new experience for me. It was nice to learn everything and everything, and it will look amazing on the CV, ”he says.
Milwaukee advocates hope to provide more people with opportunities to explore renewable energy jobs and more opportunities for homeowners to switch to solar power.
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association is launching Grow Solar Greater Milwaukee on Thursday, encouraging homeowners to participate in a solar group buying program. The association hopes the streamlined and cost-effective program will attract more people to the sun.
Also on Thursday, the State Civil Service Commission will undertake what would be the largest solar project to date in the state. Alliant Energy is seeking to acquire six solar farms, totaling 675 megawatts. The proposal would create twice the total amount of solar power currently produced in the state and potentially generate about 2% of the total electricity consumed in Wisconsin.
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