MILWAUKEE - Today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Environment was joined by local business and labor leaders to release a new report outlining Wisconsin’s solar potential. Citing the report’s findings, the speakers called for passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act to boost Wisconsin’s solar industry. The event was held at the residence of a local homeowner who recently added solar panels to meet on-site electric and hot water needs.
“When it comes to solar power, Wisconsin is ready to shine,” said Lindsay North, Wisconsin Environment Field Associate. “Harnessing our solar potential will reduce pollution, create new jobs and make us more energy independent. We need to seize this opportunity.”
The report, Ready to Shine: The Potential of Wisconsin’s Solar Industry found that despite our cold weather climate, Wisconsin has surprisingly good solar resources. The findings include:
Wisconsin’s solar resources are comparable to those of New Jersey, which already produces enough solar electricity to power 9,000 homes—second only to California nationwide;
Wisconsin receives 20 percent more sunlight than the world’s leader in solar development, Germany—a country with a similar climate;
Wisconsin has the technical potential to generate 11.9 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year from panels atop homes and businesses in the state—enough electricity to power two thirds of the state’s 2.5 million homes;
Solar energy is increasingly cost competitive. The price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted over recent years, falling 20 percent in 2009 alone. By mid-decade, experts predict that solar electricity will be price-competitive against other forms of power generation;
Wisconsin industries are uniquely positioned to benefit from solar technology. Breweries, cheese factories and other food processors can use solar systems to capture heat from their industrial processes and farms can utilize solar energy in rural locations that are more difficult to reach from the grid.
The new report comes as the legislature considers the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Key components of the bill that would boost solar energy include increasing the state’s commitment to 25% renewable energy by 2025 with an in-state commitment of at least 10%, a focus on distributed generation and other policies to make it easier for homeowners and businesses to install solar technologies. Currently, the state sends $16 billion out of state every year to import fossil fuels. By investing in solar energy, along with wind and clean biomass, the legislation can help keep more of those dollars here in Wisconsin and boost local economies.
“Investment in renewable energy in Wisconsin means putting qualified electricians back to work in union jobs that can support families,” said Dave Boetcher, Governmental Affairs Coordinator for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “Wisconsin is best served by spending our energy dollars in Wisconsin rather than sending it out of state. We at IBEW hope that the state Legislature continues to move forward on passing clean energy policies that do just that,” said Boetcher.
Wisconsin is one of only three states -- along with California and Texas -- that have two cities in the Department of Energy’s Solar Cities program. Madison and Milwaukee are both promoting solar energy through education, incentives, and creative financing programs. These programs, along with state and utility incentives have spurred initial solar development in the state, making Wisconsin the Midwest’s leading state for solar. With policies that promote solar, Wisconsin can turn that early lead into a lasting advantage in the solar field.
“Helios USA will be the first solar manufacturer in Wisconsin,” said Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Helios USA. “We are optimistic about the future of Helios USA given the combination of ready workers, available resources and movement of policies in the state Legislature to make it easier for citizens and businesses to invest in solar energy.”
New Berlin-based Magaw Electric is another company vying to capture opportunities in this growing field. “More and more of my time is spent updating current buildings and lessening their energy bills by installing renewable energy systems,” said Mike Bates, Project Manager of at the company. “As a manager and electrician, we see significant growth potential for our business with solar and other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects,” continued Bates.
“We want to see the legislature act now to unleash the power of the sun, create new jobs and reduce pollution,” said North. “They have a chance to accomplish these goals right now by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act with a strong renewable energy standard, along with a buyback rate and other incentives to make it easier for consumers and businesses to install solar panels.”
Ready to Shine is the second report released in two weeks by Wisconsin Environment. The first, Building a Solar Future outlined a plan to get 10% of the nation’s energy from solar power. Both reports can be found in the report section of the group’s website: www.WisconsinEnvironment.org.
Wisconsin Environment is a state-based, citizen-funded environmental group working for clean air, clean water, and open space. www.wisconsinenvironment.org