Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation Partnership Brings Affordable Community Solar to Rural Wisconsin

Source: Joe Pater, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

The Bluff Prairie Community Solar Farm in southwestern Wisconsin will generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity and provide nearly 2,000 community solar panel subscriptions to members of Vernon Electric Cooperative, about a quarter of which will be available at no cost to low-income households to help lower residents' energy burden and expand access to the benefits of renewable energy. The project is the result of an innovative partnership between the Wisconsin Public Service Commission's Office of Energy Innovation (the State Energy Office), Couleecap (a local community action agency), the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), and Vernon Electric Cooperative. Funding from the Office of Energy Innovation, with support from the U.S. State Energy Program, allowed Couleecap to purchase 550 panel subscriptions, which will generate monthly bill credits that will be distributed to low-income households participating in WHEAP, the state's Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

The Bluff Prairie Community Solar project represents a new approach to community solar in the state and grew out of the Inclusive Shared Solar Initiative (ISSI), a collaboration between NASEO, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), and State Energy Offices and state LIHEAP offices in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. The Office of Energy Innovation has also awarded funding for a second pilot project through ISSI, in partnership with West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency and Pierce Pepin Electric Cooperative, and expects the array to come online in the coming months. Together, these projects will help reduce energy costs and ensure low-income communities in Wisconsin can access the benefits of solar energy.