State Highlight: Wisconsin Solar, Incentives & Facts

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Cost of Solar.

Wisconsin solar incentives: Solar farm in Walworth County, Wisconsin (

The state of Wisconsin offers incentives to help people improve energy efficiency, increase insulation in their homes and businesses, and convert to solar and renewable power. Solar power increased in Wisconsin in 2013 by 17%.

Among Wisconsin solar incentives are a rebate program, several tax breaks, a loan program, net metering, and property-assessed clean energy financing. Some of the state’s utilities offer customers a performance-based incentive as well, and some have filed to broaden their distributed-generation portfolios.

To develop more local power production, the state passed a 10% renewable portfolio standard in 2006. Utilities must now purchase at least as much renewable energy as they bought in 2010 and increase that amount each year until they reach 10% or 2015. After that, they are not allowed to fall backward, giving renewables a sizable boost.

Net metering was first established in Wisconsin in 1982 and now covers photovoltaics, solar thermal heat, and solar hot water heating credited at the retail rate. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin requires all regulated utilities to allow customers to net meter. Customers’ net excess generation is usually credited at the utility’s retail rate, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. All distributed-generation systems are eligible under the rule. If credits exceed $25, the utility sends the customer a check; otherwise, excess generation is carried forward to the next month. Solar and wind power are exempted from state property taxes, and the state offers rebates on renewables.

Join the Wisconsin solar power rooftop revolution!

If you’re committed to renewable energy in transportation as well as residential power, remember that if you have the upfront investment, planning a solar system to incorporate the demands of your electric car will help you save a lot down the road in terms of lower fuel and maintenance costs.

Very important is Wisconsin’s Public Benefits Fund’s Focus on Energy program. Focus on Energy offers cash back rewards to residential and business customers of participating utilities in the state when they install photovoltaics or other renewable energy technologies on their properties. A government, private, and public partnership, it rebates photovoltaics, solar hot water, and solar thermal heat at $1.00 per annual kWh produced by a system, up to $50,000 or 25% of a PV system’s costs. Check Focus on Energy’s website to see which utilities in the state are participating.

The residential and business rebate level is based on the size of the system installed and capped at $50,000 and 50 kWh for PV. The rebate is payable either to the installer or the system owner. In addition to PV and wind, solar hot water and biomass combustion qualify for funding under the program.

Wisconsin also has a 100% Request for Exemption of Renewable Energy System program for photovoltaics, solar hot water, solar thermal heat, and wind. Value added by a solar system is exempt from state property taxes. Under the rule, passive solar power is not exempt, but photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, solar hot water and solar concentrators, are eligible.

Homeowners and small businesses in Wisconsin who considered solar before but had problems with building orientation may want to have a look at the new option for residential solar plans we reported on earlier this week. You now have available a mounting system from TRA Snow and Sun based on panel elevation for east- or west-facing roofs.

As well as the Wisconsin solar incentives, municipal governments are encouraging solar. “Cities can show state leaders the demand and the will for solar,” says Megan Severson, a state advocate for renewable energy with the nonprofit Wisconsin Environment. Of all the municipalities in Wisconsin, Milwaukee stands out for its steadfast adoption of solar technology.

The US Department of Energy designated Milwaukee as one of 25 Solar American Cities back in 2008. It’s a clear state and national leader in solar with 1.25 MW of solar energy installed. Very recently, city officials expanded the Milwaukee Shines program. Permitting has been expedited there to one day, and there’s a good local zoning ordinance. Homeowners, business, and government there have done some awesome things.

Financial Incentives

Additionally, numerous other incentives are available through the state, counties, municipalities, and utility companies. For more information, click through on the link(s) below.

State Sales Tax Incentive

State Property Tax Incentive

State Renewable Energy Grant Programs

Local Loan Programs

Local Rebate Programs

Performance-Based Incentives

Utility Loan Programs

Utility Rebate Programs

Overall, there are a large number of Wisconsin solar incentives. If you live in the state, by all means take advantage of them!

Wisconsin Solar Energy Facts

  • There are currently more than 150 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Wisconsin, employing 1,800 people. These companies provide solar products and services across the following categories: 31 manufacturers, 20 manufacturing facilities, 88 contractor/installers, 3 project developers, 8 distributors, and 20 engaged in other solar activities including financing, engineering and legal support.
  • RenewWisconsin has over 20 years of advancing renewable energy policies for Wisconsin through advocacy, education, and collaborative initiatives.
  • The 17 MW of solar energy currently installed in Wisconsin (enough solar energy installed in the state to power 2,600 homes) ranks the state 27th in the country in installed solar capacity.
  • In 2013, Wisconsin installed 3 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it #28 nationally.
  • In 2013, $10 million was invested in Wisconsin to install solar for home, business, and utility use.  This represents a 25% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.
  • Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in Wisconsin have fallen by 17% in the last year. In 2013, 6.9% of Wisconsin’s net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, split mostly among conventional hydroelectric power, biomass, and wind, leaving solar great opportunities to grow.
  • In 2012, Wisconsin produced 474 million gallons of ethanol, ranking the state ranked eighth in the nation for ethanol production.
  • Wisconsin households use 103 million Btu of site energy per home, 15% more than the U.S. average. Lower utility rates compared to states with a similar climate, such as New York, result in households spending 5% less for energy than the U.S. average, according to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.
  • Recent local achievements include the following:
    • In Milwaukee, the Public Museum is getting 234 solar panels, and the Central Library is installing a green roof.In Milwaukee, the Public Museum is getting 234 solar panels, and the Central Library is installing a green roof.
    • Madison is installing solar PV at its fire stations, county airport, and library.
    • The state’s first community solar garden launched with 305 kW of installed capacity.
    • Developer Half Moon completed the Jefferson Solar Project, which has the capacity to generate 1.1 MW of electricity from PV—enough to power over 200 Wisconsin homes.
    • In Milwaukee, Sussex, and Waukesha, department store retailer Kohl’s has installed solar photovoltaic systems that generate nearly 500 kW of clean solar energy.
    • A Milwaukee brewing company has started using solar power in its brewing process.
    • Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective has seen strong response to its proposal to build a community-owned solar facility with 1,001 panels in Westby in western Wisconsin. The project already has enough commitments to move toward construction.
    • On the basis of high demand, the Colorado collective is considering more community-owned solar projects in Wisconsin.

Source: Cost of Solar. Reprinted with permission.

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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