In celebration of Earth Day, the City of Milwaukee and the Village of Shorewood have announced partnerships with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to each help their respective home and business owners go solar this summer. Starting in 2013, the City of Milwaukee has collaborated with the MREA to bring neighborhood-based group purchasing programs for solar to residents all over the city. Since that year, 98 Milwaukee-area home and business owners have used group buys to install new solar electric systems totaling 322 kW of clean, renewable energy. Neighborhoods have included Riverwest, Bay View, Layton Boulevard West, Washington Heights, and the East Side.
Now, thanks to support from a Department of Energy SunShot Initiative grant, the MREA is helping to expand the program to the entire city. “We saw the success of the programs building, and we’ve had success with larger communities in places like Champaign, Illinois, so we decided to bring it up to scale this year,” said Peter Murphy, Market Development Coordinator at MREA.
The programs also caught the eye of the Village of Shorewood. Their Conservation Committee approached Murphy and the MREA last Fall. “We have had a number of residents participate in the programs in the past,” said Chase Kelm, of the Village of Shorewood Conservation Committee. “So we said to the MREA, why not give Shorewood a try?”
The two programs, each produced independently by the municipalities, are being administered together by the MREA. “This way, the success of one municipality compliments the success of the other,” said Murphy. “The more people who participate in these programs, the lower the cost for everyone.”
The two programs, called Solar Shorewood and Milwaukee Shines Solar Group Buy, will host informational sessions to educate residents on the basics of solar photovoltaics, what makes a home ideal for solar, the financial outlook for a solar investment, and the steps for participating in the programs.
The first of over a dozen informational sessions is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at Three Lions Pub, 4515 N Oakland Ave. All sessions are free and open to the public and will occur through July.
“A solar group buy is a tool for community members to use their collective buying power to save on the cost of going solar,” said Murphy. “Solar Shorewood focuses outreach and info sessions on the Village of Shorewood, while the Milwaukee Shines program will feature outreach and info sessions all over Milwaukee.” By educating consumers en masse, the costs of educating each customer one by one come down considerably for the solar installer. The solar group buy programs welcome participation from home or business owners in Milwaukee or the surrounding area.
An advisory team made up of Milwaukee and Shorewood residents selected Arch Electric as the solar contractor through a competitive bid. “By making the bid competitive, we can ensure participants in these programs get the highest quality for the fairest price,” said Murphy.
Milwaukee Shines, the City of Milwaukee’s solar program, works to expand solar energy use through a comprehensive, citywide approach. In 2008, the City of Milwaukee was named one of 25 Solar America Cities. Milwaukee Shines is a project of the Office of Environmental Sustainability and works with community partners to build a clean energy future. Visit SolarMKE.com for more information and the list of future Milwaukee Shines information sessions.
The Shorewood Conservation Committee was re-established by the village Board of Trustees in 2007. The committee recommends the adoption of policies, programs, and projects to accomplish its goals and objectives towards sustainability and conservation efforts. The Conservation Committee is comprised of 13 members, each appointed to 3-year terms by the Village Board. Visit SolarShorewood.com for more information and the list of future Solar Shorewood information sessions.
The MREA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization. Founded in 1990, the MREA promotes renewable energy and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org.