Details on a record-breaking solar install program in Wisconsin


Fifty-two home and business owners in the Milwaukee area have helped the Milwaukee Shines and Solar Shorewood solar group buy programs reach 174 kW of installed solar, the largest total for a solar group buy program in Wisconsin to date.

The programs, which were a partnership between the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), Village of Shorewood and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), also worked with local partners to help spread the word about the program.

“We are thrilled that this program has kept growing over the past few years,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager at MREA. “We’re seeing more demand for solar than ever, and that trend seems likely to persist.”
Since Solar Shorewood and Milwaukee Shines group buy programs were launched in April of 2016, 52 homeowners have signed contracts to get solar on their homes. MREA’s solar group buy purchasing model has helped communities throughout the Midwest go solar.

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This is the first time Milwaukee’s solar group buy program has covered the entire city. In the past, it has focused on individual neighborhoods. The program has previously seen success in Riverwest, Bay View, the East Side, Washington Heights, and Layton Boulevard West neighborhoods. Including the Milwaukee and Shorewood programs, the Milwaukee area group buys have led to almost 150 home and businesses installing 494 kW of solar, or about 1,480 solar panels.

“Milwaukee Shines and the Environmental Collaboration Office continue to support these programs because they work,” said Elizabeth Hittman, Milwaukee sustainability program coordinator. “this type of solar success represents the people of Milwaukee’s interest and support for renewable energy.”

Inside the program

The solar group buy programs focus on community outreach through one-hour information sessions called Solar Power Hours. These Solar Power Hours were held at supporting locations throughout neighborhoods of Milwaukee and Shorewood. Attendees learned about solar technology, program details, options for financing a solar installation, and information on available incentives. This also gave home and business owners the opportunity to meet with representatives from the programs’ selected solar installer, Arch Electric. Over 230 individuals attended Solar Power Hours between April and August.

Shorewood Village Trustee Paul Zovic and his wife Joanne were among this year’s first participants to go solar. The two have installed a 2 kW array on their home with the help of Solar Shorewood. “Joanne and I had been thinking about adding solar panels to our house for several years,” notes Zovic. “We’ve replaced windows and doors, added insulation, and installed more efficient mechanical equipment (boiler, water heater, etc); so solar was a logical next step in our continued effort to reduce our energy usage, improve our environmental impact, and save money.”

MREA is managing additional Solar Group Buys around Wisconsin: in the Eau Claire area, they are partnering with local organization Chippewa Valley Affordable Solar. Other communities interested in partnering with the MREA to bring the Solar Group Buy program to their community should contact MREA’s Solar Program Coordinator, Peter Murphy.

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