Energy News Without the Spin
September 2016 
Trending: Focus on Energy - PACE - Solar Group Buy - Green Power - PEER 
Solar group buy programs are fueling Wisconsin residents’ ability to have their own solar systems. More than the reduced price on purchase and installation, these programs provide support from experts and neighbors throughout the process, from assessing a roof’s solar potential to navigating the paperwork of purchasing and installing a solar system. These successful programs are part of the US Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade (see Resources, Solarize).
In Wisconsin, more than 100 people will install solar systems through four solar group buy programs in the second half of 2016. While many properties are not suitable for a solar system due to roof orientation, shading and other factors, there are other options for Wisconsin residents and businesses to make a clean energy choice. This newsletter reports on several of those options from community solar and buying green power to electric vehicle purchase. Just a reminder -an underlying factor for the ultimate success of moving to a clean energy society is energy efficiency and the negawatt. So plant a tree to shade your windows early this fall.

Sherrie Gruder

PSC Investigates Focus on Energy in Relation to Broadband Deployment
On September 1, 2016, The Wisconsin Public Service Commission issued a notice of investigation into the use of Focus on Energy programs and funding for rural areas that are undeserved by broadband as a possible means of improving energy efficiency opportunities and rural economic development through broadband deployment. The investigation will be conducted without public hearing. However, forty parties ranging from utilities and businesses, to nonprofit organizations and individuals requested intervenor status within the fourteen-day period allotted. Read the notice of investigation here.

Wisconsin PACE Accelerates 
The first informal meeting of the Wisconsin Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Commission took place in August when it was decided to put out a Request For Proposal for a third party administrator to administer the statewide program and initiate a PACE program for commercial projects. The PACE Commission now is in the process of selecting the third party administrator. At this time, nine counties have passed PACE resolutions: Eau Claire, Dunn, La Crosse, Sheboygan, Chippewa, Washington, Douglas, Fond du Lac and Iowa Counties, with other counties considering it. There will be a PACE booth at the Counties Association Conference September 26th for those seeking additional information. For more information, EOW News.

Solar Group Buy Programs Get Results
In Wisconsin, four active group solar buy programs in the second half of 2016 are getting results. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association working with the City of Milwaukee’s Milwaukee Shines program just completed its most successful program since 2013 with the Village of Shorewood. 54 property owners signed up to install 174 kW of solar. Solar Chippewa Valley’s Group Buy Program goes through December 31st and already, 5 residents have signed up to install 28 kW. Twenty Madison residents working with RENEW Wisconsin and the MadiSUN program will install solar as part of that latest group buy program.  And SOLARacine generated another 18 contracts for solar.

USDA REAP Grants Awarded to 18 Wisconsin Rural Projects
USDA is providing $43.2 million in loan guarantees and $11.6 million in grants  for projects through the Rural Energy for America Project (REAP). In Wisconsin, 18 projects received close to $3 million in awards in August. Funding went to projects including solar energy system purchase and installation, energy efficiency improvements to grain dryers and lighting, and to reverse osmosis equipment for maple syrup production. Helping thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers shift away from fossil-based energy by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions has been one of the most important components of USDA's climate mitigation investments.
With the use of USDA investments in renewable energy projects of all sizes, rural Americans are saving more than 10.4 billion kWh— enough energy to power more than 959,000 American homes annually.

Proposed Dane County Budget Includes $2M in Solar Panels
Two New Projects, Combined With Existing County Panels, Would Be Largest Publicly-Owned Solar Array In Wisconsin. The proposed 2017 Dane County budget from county executive Joe Parisi would triple the county's production of solar power and create a new department to oversee energy and climate change.

Solar Tours October 3rd 
Solar tours of homes and businesses are occurring nationwide the first weekend of October, kicking off Energy Awareness month. It offers the opportunity to tour innovative green homes and buildings informally, and to see how solar energy can be used efficiently. The link to Wisconsin sites is listed under events. If you’re away from Wisconsin, check out the tours in the state you’re visiting in the 2016 SOLAR TODAY National Solar Tour Guide 

Trees: A Tool for Energy Efficiency
Early fall is a good time for tree planting in Wisconsin. Placed strategically on the south and west sides of buildings, trees provide shade from the summer sun that can improve comfort and reduce costs of air conditioning. Broadhead Power and Light recognizes this natural energy efficiency strategy and is providing $50 rebates to their customers toward the purchase of shade trees through the end of September. Even without a rebate, planting a tree to shade south and west windows is a value proposition for your building and for the environment (trees make oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide- a greenhouse gas, provide wildlife habitat, and help reduce urban temperatures).

Local Financing Program Promotes Electric Car Purchase
Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) has installed ample electric car charging infrastructure with 31 electric vehicle charging stations powered by 100 percent wind energy across the city and a mobile app to locate them. Electric vehicles reduce dependence on foreign oil and tailpipe emissions that harm human health. To grow the electric vehicle market locally, MGE, Wisconsin Clean Cities and Zimbrick Eastside Nissan announced a special offer that began in August on 2016 Nissan LEAF® SV electric vehicles. This discount, coupled with available federal tax savings, allows drivers to save nearly 50% on a new, all-electric LEAF. The offer ends 9/30/2016. For more details

Community Solar Options Piloted Across Wisconsin
MGE launched sales of its pilot “shared” 500 kilowatt solar electric project being built on the City of Middleton’s operation center roof.  Designed to provide locally generated clean electricity to residential customers, it is available to anyone in the MGE service territory. Participants pay a one-time participation fee based on 10 percent of the amount of solar panels purchased (for example, $472.50 for half the average household use of 6,600 kWh per month), and receive a guaranteed fixed electric rate of $0.12 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for 25 years for up to half of their electric use. The remaining 50 percent or more will be billed at the standard rate.  Currently, the solar electric charge is 2.8 cents per kilowatt hour higher than the standard rate. For more detailed information: video and website.

Another model is the Legacy Solar Co-op approach just successfully completed by Willy Street Co-op East (see photo caption). Also an opportunity for those who can’t or don’t want to install their own solar system, this is an investment option in a revolving solar loan fund where participants buy a bond with a 3-5 percent yield in either 7 or 25 years (EOW News July, 2016).

Several other variations of community solar programs in Wisconsin include Vernon Electric Coop Community Solar Farm, Taylor Electric Coop Community Solar (EOW News Oct/Nov 2015), the LaFarge Municipal Utility Community Solar (EOW News Jan/Feb 2016), and Excel community solar gardens for La Crosse and Eau Claire (EOW News March 2016).

Wisconsinites Can Choose Green Power
In some Wisconsin markets, individuals have received an Email stating “…you can choose wind energy for half your electricity usage for FREE”. UW-Extension’s been asked, is this legitimate? The email is from a company based in DC that takes over your utility bill while you use your same utility, and charges a premium to provide renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind power. Purchasing REC’s is a legitimate way for individuals and businesses to offset their fossil fuel energy use with clean renewable energy. There are other choices than that business model though.

Many companies provide clean energy RECs in the marketplace. Make sure you know what you’re buying. Look for green-e certified companies; they are third-party verified. Ethos Green Power, Viroqua, WI, is a local certified option that purchases renewable energy from small and medium generators mostly in Wisconsin (the sources are identified on the map at the bottom of the Ethos home page by hovering over a marker). You continue to pay your bill to your utility as usual, and buy REC’s from Ethos for green power. A short video on Ethos home page shows how buying green power works.  Some Wisconsin utilities provide green pricing programs that enable customers to offset some or all of their electric use with green power as well.

Wisconsin residents can’t choose their utility in this regulated state, but they can choose to buy clean green power and have some choice about where it comes from. Buying REC’s is an option for those who want to support more renewable energy generation but are unable or prefer not to install their own system, don’t have a local community solar option to buy into or, that have a renewable system that covers only part of their electricity use and want to be fossil fuel free for the rest.  Choosing clean energy is not free; but, buying REC’s is an inexpensive and simple option in the short term.

MREA Approved for Vets Education
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved a number of solar and wind training courses offered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). Now they can offer educational opportunities to veterans through the use of their GI benefits for MREA training in Custer and Milwaukee, WI. Interested Veteran students can contact MREA Training Coordinator, Jenny Heinzen at

PEER System Improving Electrical Sustainability and Reliability
Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER) is the nation’s first comprehensive, consumer-centric, data-driven system for evaluating power system performance. It is designed to transform the power industry into a more sustainable one by providing operators with a framework for continuous improvement and performance assessment through PEER certification. It is modeled after LEED, the successful green building rating system Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

PEER provides a complete picture of the efficiency, quality, safety, resilience and reliability of energy generation, transmission and distribution systems. It provides actionable information that empowers building owners and power providers to configure and operate their systems to maximum effectiveness across key metrics. Launched in 2015, cities and campuses are identifying different ways to utilize PEER to improve their city’s electrical sustainability and reliability.

Energy Star Portfolio Manager Now Includes Waste & Materials Tracking
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now includes a waste and materials tracking feature in its Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which is a free benchmarking and tracking tool for commercial building owners and managers. Reducing waste and reusing materials more productively through sustainable materials management over their entire lifecycles conserves resources, helps communities remain economically competitive and supports a healthy environment.

EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is already used to measure energy, water and greenhouse gas metrics in more than 450,000 U.S. buildings, representing more than 40 percent of U.S. commercial space, as well as in more than 10,000 buildings in Canada. Now owners and managers using Portfolio Manager will be able to benchmark 29 types of waste across four different management metrics alongside their existing sustainability management indicators. Types of waste include building materials, glass, paper, plastics and trash.

Put Wisconsin on the Community Power Map
Where are communities taking charge of their energy future? Which states give communities the most power? The Institute for Local Self-Reliance's new Community Power Map provides an interactive illustration of how communities across the US are accelerating the transition toward 100% renewable energy and how policies help or hinder greater local action. The map is new and needs to be populated. Fill out a form to put your local renewable energy program on the map.  View the map

Scotland: A Wind Energy Power House
Wind turbines produced 106% of the electricity needed by every home and business in Scotland for the first time on August 7, reported World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Scotland. They generated 39,545 MWh of electricity to the country’s 5.3 million people. Typically, wind contributes more than half of Scotland’s daily electricity needs. Scotland, that houses one-quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resources currently, is building the world’s largest off shore wind farm for a cost of nearly $3 billion to be completed in 2019. CNBC

In contrast, the US has a few small cities fully powered by renewable energy including Aspen, CO, Burlington, VT, Scituate, MA and Greensburg, KS (EOW News Feb 2015)
DOE First Steps Toward Developing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Tribal Lands Program 
  • Applications Due: October 20, 2016
  • Eligible Entities: Tribal governments
US Department of Energy (DOE) is making $3 million available to support tribal energy development in the following six topic areas: (1) Conduct energy options analyses, (2) Establish baseline energy use and efficiency options, (3) Develop energy organizations, (4) Conduct climate resiliency planning, (5) Establish policy, regulations, and codes to reduce energy use or promote energy development, and (6) Obtain skills and training related to energy use and development.
For more information, visit the funding opportunity description.

Willy Street Co-op East 25 kilowatt Community Solar Project Financed in Less than 1 Month.
The Co-op and 9 members invested $38,500 to pay for the balance of the solar array after the 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit. The accompanying lighting retrofit replacing 228 fluorescent lamps with LEDs cut energy use from lighting by half. Focus on Energy incentives assisted with the retrofit. For more details EOW News June/July 2016.
Photo courtesy of Kurt Reinhold
ENERGY STAR Webcasts Series: Portfolio Manager 101, 201, 301
September 27-29, 2016

Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar
September 28, 2016

Roadmap for Transforming Energy to 100% Wind, Water, and Solar
September 29, 2016

The Wisconsin Solar Tour
October 1, 2016

Milwaukee Area Solar Bus Tour for Educators
October 1, 2016

Ride with Renew 2016

October 2, 2016
Fond du Lac Area, WI

Hands-on Solar Training at MREA
October 4-14, 2016
Custer, WI

US Green Building Council Greenbuild Conference & Expo
October 4-7, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

Midwest Energy Policy Conference
October 4-5, 2016
St. Louis, MO

Heating the Midwest Conference

October 11-13, 2016
Harris, MI

2016 Getting to Zero National Forum

October 12-14, 2016
Denver, CO

Solar Power PV Conference & Expo
November 9-10, 2016
Chicago, IL

Recycle, Bury, or Burn Wood Waste Biomass?: LCA Answer Depends on Carbon Accounting, Emissions Controls, Displaced Fuels, and Impact Costs. 
This study, in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, extends existing life cycle assessment (LCA) literature by assessing seven environmental burdens and an overall monetized environmental score for eight recycle, bury, or burn options to manage clean wood wastes generated at construction and demolition activity 
The Solarize Guidebook: A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV systems
This guidebook, by NREL and the City of Portland, is intended to be a roadmap for project planners and solar advocates who want to create their own successful Solarize campaigns. It describes the key elements of the Solarize Portland campaigns and variations from projects across the country, along with lessons learned and planning templates. The guidebook is funded by the DOE SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.

Get to know us:
Energy On Wisconsin
Sherrie Gruder, LEED APBD+C  
Sustainable Design Specialist
Energy Program Manager
(608) 262-0398

An EEO/Affirmative Action employer, the University of Wisconsin-Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA requirements.

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