RED MOUND, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Vernon Electric Cooperative, Couleecap and the Public Service Commission’s Office of Energy Innovation joined forces.
The result is the Bluff Prairie Community Solar Array in the town of Wheatland near Red Mound. Vernon Electric Cooperative CEO and GM, Craig Buros, explains, “This is a project that we’ve been working on for a couple of years but didn’t just come together real quick. So, we get to this point today where we can bring all of our partners together, to celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s pretty exciting.”
Buros says Couleecap’s involvement was a big help for the project, “This project was designed to maximize our ability to put solar in on this particular substation. So, the project was pretty well set. The Couleecap’s involvement brought solar to the low to moderate income. It allowed us to carve out part of this larger project that we had already put together and be able to use that for the solar for the low to moderate income.”
The Executive Director of Couleecap, Hetti Brown, says a key step in the project was listening to the community, “You have to listen to the community. We did focus groups and interviews to do that. You listen to your community and then you build solutions that meet community needs. Vernon Electric was great at partnering with us to explain how their community solar project in general would work. And then we had to design a program where we knew meaningful benefits could be allocated.”
Many state politicians showed up for the ceremony, including Representative Loren Oldenburg, Senator Brad Pfaff, and Governor Tony Evers. Evers says, “You can’t live without electricity or heat in your home, whether you’re rich or poor. And we have to make sure that there is new and innovative ways that are impacting not just people of means, but people that struggle financially and Couleecap kind of steps in the chasm here to make that happen.”
The project is estimated to produce 528,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, resulting in annual bill credits of more than $30,000 for income-eligible members.
1,966 panels will be available to members for community solar subscriptions, including the Energize Wisconsin program.