Community solar would give Wisconsin an economic boost and save customers money
Madison, Wis. — Today, the Wisconsin Community Solar Economic Alliance and residents across the state applauded lawmakers for introducing legislation to allow community solar in Wisconsin.
Sen. Duey Stroebel (R – Saukville) and Rep. Scott Krug (R – Nekoosa) unveiled their community solar legislation at a Capitol press conference today. Their bills would enable third-party providers to construct community solar facilities across the state. Households and businesses that do not have access to traditional rooftop solar can subscribe to these projects in order to reap the many benefits of solar energy.
Community solar will help boost Wisconsin’s economy by generating new income streams for local farmers, creating new family sustaining jobs, expanding consumer choice, and allowing consumers to save money on their electricity bills.
William Mansfield, a small business owner from Wisconsin Dells said he likes the options afforded by community solar. “Wisconsin needs to allow community solar to keep energy affordable and to provide economic opportunities for farmers and small towns. We need affordable options with no subsidies or gimmicks,” said Mansfield, president of On-Track Technology Solutions.
The state’s largest agricultural association immediately endorsed the bills.
“The Wisconsin Farm Bureau supports small-scale community solar projects that provide farmers the opportunity to earn income by leasing a portion of their land while keeping the rest of the farm in production. We applaud the bill’s authors for giving local control on these projects to the communities they are in, and introducing legislation that allows farmers the ability to maintain their own independence while also creating energy independence here in our state,” said Jason Mugnaini, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Government Relations Executive Director.
“Farmers know the best economic use of their land. Allowing small innovative projects like these which are compatible with farming operations and roughly 25 – 30 acres in size is a much better alternative to taking several thousand acres of quality farmland out of production.”
Many community solar projects are constructed on marginal land unsuitable for agricultural use or animal grazing, allowing for farmers — including dairy farmers — to lease their land to projects and cultivate an additional revenue stream.
According to John Schulze of Associated Builders and Contractors, Wisconsin’s building industry is ready to build these new solar projects.
“The simple fact is that there are skilled workers living in every corner of Wisconsin right now that can build these projects so that the lights remain on, businesses continue to run, and communities remain strong.”
Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz says grocers operate with razor-thin margins and prices have risen dramatically in the post-Covid era. “Everything is on the table when it comes to managing operational costs. As energy costs continue to remain high, grocers will look to mitigate those costs with potential alternatives like solar energy,” said Scholz. “Grocers want every opportunity available to achieve those cost reductions.”
RENEW hailed the legislation and its ability to create jobs.
“This legislation enables the development of community solar, increases access to the benefits of clean energy, helps subscribers save money on utility bills, and creates jobs within the Wisconsin solar industry,” said Sam Dunaiski, Executive Director of RENEW.
Community solar is especially attractive because it is driven by free markets and not government mandates.
“Solar energy adheres to the conservative principles of affordability, reliability and self-sufficiency, which is why we support the expansion of solar opportunities in Wisconsin. By capping project sizes to 40 acres of land and requiring town board approval, this bill ensures that local voices are heard as we work to offer Wisconsinites more energy choices,” said Ryan Huebsch, the Executive Director of Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum.