Solar group buy programs like Grow Solar Central Wisconsin strengthen local economies and create local jobs by empowering community members to keep their energy dollars at home through an investment in solar energy. The program is built on the belief that communities are stronger when they’re composed of informed citizens and that it’s important for each individual to have a strong foundation of understanding about the technologies available to them in order to make smart decisions about their energy future.
“This program mobilizes the collective action of the community to fund local solar installations, using local labor and promoting local economic growth,” says Ben Nusz, Campus Dean for Mid-State Technical College’s Stevens Point Campus. “We are proud to have trained many of the solar installers involved in this collaboration.”
The program’s success stems from the combination of partnership between the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), Mid-State Technical College, and the cities of Stevens Point and Wausau, public-facing solar education, and the opportunity to purchase solar at a discounted rate through the power of bulk purchasing.
“The City of Stevens Point is proud to have partnered with MREA on the Grow Solar project since its inception,” says Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza. “Concerns about rising fuel costs and damages to our environment have made alternative energy sources even more attractive. Stevens Point has achieved a Gold status Sol-Smart designation for streamlining the process to install solar in the city and the next logical step was to ensure those installations were as affordable as we could get. Grow Solar Central Wisconsin has allowed us to offer pre-negotiated best rates possible. This is a hat trick : Easy installation process, great installation price and you’re helping the planet!”
Since 2017, Grow Solar Central Wisconsin has resulted in the installation of 1,039 kW of solar installed on 159 central Wisconsin homes and businesses. These solar arrays avoid 7,859 pounds of CO2 emissions each year, which is equivalent to that of 3,928 pounds of coal burned, 8,846 miles driven by the average passenger vehicle, and the amount that 4.7 acres of U.S. forest can sequester.
To expand awareness and understanding of availability of solar energy to property owners throughout central Wisconsin, the Grow Solar Central Wisconsin program provides free, virtual, hour-long educational sessions called Solar Power Hours, which cover the basics of solar, how it can save people money, and how the solar group buy program works to residents of Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, and Wood Counties. The deadline to sign up for the program and receive the group discount is September 30.
Three-term Wausau city council member Pat Peckham is also a big supporter of the Grow Solar Central Wisconsin program. Two things in particular about the program stand out to him: The informational presentations are well-practiced, complete and concise, taking up no more than an hour of time for someone considering participating. Secondly, there’s no sales pitch. “The information received from Mid-State Technical College and Midwest Renewable Energy Association presenters is clear and it’s honest,” Peckham says.
The MREA was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit shortly after the first Energy Fair in 1990. MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715 – 592 – 6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org.