Wisconsin lawmakers review transformative bill to enable community solar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 14, 2024 

Caroline Rajchel

Wisconsin lawmakers review transformative bill to enable community solar

For the first time, members of the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities hear diverse stakeholders supporting community solar, including constituents in all 72 Wisconsin counties, industry experts, Walmart, the Farm Bureau, and more.

MADISON, Wis. —  Today, a diverse group of stakeholders testified on the benefits of community solar to the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities during a hearing reviewing Assembly Bill 258. The hearing marks the first time in four years that legislation enabling community solar has advanced to committee.

The bill — sponsored by State Representative Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) — would legalize community solar projects and allow electric customers to subscribe and receive credit on their utility bills for their share of the power produced. This legislation would:

  • Provide homeowners, renters, and businesses equal access to solar energy, regardless of their ability to install solar panels on their own home or business
  • Generate $2.5 billion in economic activity and 34,700 jobs in Wisconsin, according to a recent study from Forward Analytics
  • Help save Wisconsin family farms by giving farmers the opportunity to earn lease payments for small, underutilized portions of their land, while still letting them farm the rest of their land
  • Create a competitive marketplace for community solar projects, which are 10-15 times smaller than utility-scale solar projects
  • Create strict local control over community solar projects, requiring two-thirds approval by the local municipality before they can proceed

“The benefits of this pro-business bill go beyond lowering long-term costs for all ratepayers,” commented Matthew Hargarten, Vice President of Campaigns for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “Community solar creates well paying jobs, unlocks opportunities for farmers, and makes our energy grid more resilient. I sincerely hope that Wisconsin lawmakers see the boundless potential of community solar, and advance this bill for hard-working families across the state.”

Over the last four years, community solar in Wisconsin has gained support from Wisconsin businesses and organizations from across the state who believe community solar can give consumers and businesses more energy choice, lower customers bills, and increase private investment in local communities. Notable alliance members include Walmart, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Grocers Association, Kohler, Organic Valley, Advocate Aurora Health, Associated Builders and Contractors, Conservative Energy Network, RENEW Wisconsin, and the Alliance for Wisconsin Retailers who represent Best Buy, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Home Depot, and Target. 

More than 2,000 citizens, hailing from all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties, either signed a petition or contacted their local lawmaker demanding action be taken to advance community solar legislation.

“Community solar doesn’t remove agricultural land, but rather protects it,” noted Jason Mugnaini, Executive Director of Governmental Relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “It puts local control of these projects back into the hands of landowners and their communities as well as allowing farmers the ability to maintain their own independence and stay in production agriculture by cultivating a stable revenue stream while also cultivating energy independence.”

Lisa B. Nelson, Walmart’s Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, writes in a recent op-ed: “Community solar is a solution that brings a plethora of benefits to a broad base of consumers, transforming the way we access and think about energy, as well as [reducing] energy costs for Wisconsin families and businesses. Community solar will also attract investment to Wisconsin, create new jobs, and reduce utility investment requirements and associated rate increases.”

Advancement of AB 258 may now depend on its Senate companion bill, SB 226, receiving a hearing in the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology, chaired by State Senator Julian Bradley (R-Franklin). 

Over the past decade, the number of states that have enacted policies to support third-party shared or community solar has expanded from just a few to 18 states, including Washington, D.C. A collective 6.6 gigawatts (GW) of generation capacity has been installed to date, according to Wood Mackenzie’s most recent US community solar market outlook.


About the Wisconsin Community Solar Economic Alliance 

The Wisconsin Community Solar Economic Alliance is a group of Wisconsin organizations from across the state and all walks of life committed to pushing for a robust and competitive community solar market. For more information, visit https://wi4communitysolar.com/ and follow the group on Twitter. 

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