New Day Dawning? – Shepherd Express – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-12-06 16:19:47 –

For Paul Harder of Whitefish Bay, the solar panels he installed in his home almost six years ago place much more emphasis on return on investment than environmental concerns.

According to Harder’s calculations, his electricity bill savings amount to 8 percent per year. 30-year government bond. Harder, which owns the mortgage brokerage company White Oak Mortgage LLC, has an annual yield of just over 2%.

That’s why no more homeowners are following him during the sun’s plunge, which is a source of some surprises for Harder. As interest rates have revolved around historically lows over the years, Harder has few other ways to get such yields, except in stock markets, which carry far greater risk. can not.

Most of the environmental benefits are retrofits.

“When I look at Solar, I think a lot of people are making mistakes,” Harder said. “They don’t see it the right way — as yield vs. risk. They don’t see it as a conservative investment.”

Still impaired costs

Still, no matter how attractive future revenues are, there remains one major obstacle that keeps many homeowners from solar power. JD Smith, Milwaukee-based Archelectric Business Development Coordinator, said the cost of installing a residential solar array depends on factors ranging from the size of the system required to the amount of sun a particular property receives. He said it was in the range of $ 30,000 to $ 30,000.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s policy to support the solar industry is one of the weakest in the United States, while the federal government offers a 26% tax credit for housing projects, while Wisconsin focuses on energy. We donate only $ 500 through the program we win. To make matters worse, Wisconsin’s net metering policy produces more energy than homeowners and businesses can use and controls what they receive when they place surplus electricity on the grid for distribution. Lack of uniformity complicates the estimation of expected return.

The previous two legislature bills promise to significantly improve the situation. One proposal, yet in draft form, explicitly allows so-called third-party financing in Wisconsin. In this type of financing, an independent solar company (third party) leases rooftop space from a homeowner or company for a small amount and installs its own equipment there. The money saved on energy charges is split between the installer and the real estate owner.

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As seen in almost every other state, third-party financing resides in the legal gray territory of Wisconsin. Large utilities like We Energies in Milwaukee are taking legal action against third-party installers in an attempt to maintain the monopoly right to carry out power generation projects in their area.

Do you want to clarify the rules?

Heather Allen, executive director of renewable energy group RENEW Wisconsin, said third-party financing is not strictly illegal in Wisconsin, but homeowners do not risk proceedings.

“We need an explanation from the legislature,” she said. “If a utility can challenge a project in court, no one wants to do the work of building and financing the project.”

A second bill, due out before lawmakers this year, will allow homeowners to participate in the “Community Solar Project.” These are specifically intended for people whose properties do not get enough sunlight or are otherwise unsuitable for solar power generation.

In community projects, homeowners can basically pay to get electricity from a large solar power plant in the distance. Often located in rural areas with few obstacles. Again, community projects are fairly common in other states, but not in Wisconsin.

“This is ideal for customers who have high energy demands but little roof space,” Allen said.

Both bills give solar proponents like Allen a reason for hope. Unlike previous proposals of the same kind, they have already received considerable attention from at least some Republicans who control the Legislature.

Investment by energy companies

When such policies were promoted in the past, they often ran into opposition from large investor-owned utilities. However, many of these same companies are now adopting solar in their own right. We Energies and its sister company, Wisconsin Public Service, are working with Madison Gas & Electric to invest in at least five major projects across the state, including the huge 300-megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Park in Iowa County.

Archelectric Smith said he was confident that a lot of demand remained. Adopting a law that explicitly permits third-party financing and community solar projects would be of great help in meeting that, he said. According to Smith, the pandemic has not only made people more aware of how much energy they are using at home, but they are also keen to find ways to reduce their bills.

“Many people were just trapped in their homes and cut off from the outside world,” Smith said. “Therefore, energy usage and security issues have become very interesting.”

Mr Smith said solar industry experts tend to talk about the state reaching a turning point. Where solar arrays were once rare, you’ll find that you’re in a hurry to install the system. California, which gets almost a quarter of its total electricity from the sun, reached that point around 2016. Minnesota, which gets almost 4% of its electricity from the sun, has only recently arrived.

With the right combination of policies and incentives, Wisconsin could quickly reach its own turning point, Smith said. According to a report released in October by consulting firm Cadmus, Wisconsin will one day be able to get two-thirds of its energy from its rooftop solar facility. The only thing that gets in the way is the lack of proper policies.

“Wisconsin is a state of practical people,” Smith said. “There is a lot of agricultural culture here, so the fact of the matter is that the majority will not do so unless it is a really good financial move.”

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