Eight ‘solar group buy’ programs set for 2018

At least eight “solar group buy” programs in the state have been announced for 2018, according to the latest tally from RENEW Wisconsin.

Solar group buys are a way for residential or business property owners to pool their resources to get residential solar arrays installed at a lower cost.

A designated contractor works with a community to provide solar electric systems at a set price per kilowatt. This contractor partners up with a registered nonprofit to organize necessary materials, arrange site visits, hold outreach events and finally set a price for the solar installations.

According to RENEW Wisconsin, the Wisconsin group buy model relies on trusted nonprofits to spread the word and connect with potential customers, lessening the need for spending on advertising.

And since the group is purchasing altogether, the contractors can acquire what they need at a lower cost and savings are then pass on savings to system owners.

In 2017, five programs were able to get 164 signed contracts, with over 1,000 kilowatts of aggregate capacity.

This year’s group buys include:

*Sierra Club Solar Group Buy, which is run by the Sierra Club’s John Muir Chapter and Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar. Its stated goal is to move the state toward renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuels.

*Glacial Heritage Solar, run by Heart of the City, Sustain Jefferson, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Any property owners in Jefferson County or in the greater Glacial Heritage Area can participate.

*Chequamegon Bay Group Buy, a program from Cheq Bay Renewables for residential and small business owners. Participants have already signed up for site assessments and quotes, and installations are set to begin in April.

*Sheboygan County Solar Group Buy, a program from Arch Electric modeled after other successful programs in Madison, Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine.

*Solar Sauk County is offered by Sauk County Conservation, Planning, & Zoning; UW-Extension; Sauk Area Conservation Awareness & Action; and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

*Southeast Wisconsin Solar Group Buy, organized by the Energy Committee of Greening Greater Racine for homeowners and small businesses in Racine and Kenosha Counties. It’s due to begin this month.

*MadiSUN, a program administered by RENEW Wisconsin on behalf of the City of Madison. The program works with Summit Credit Union on a solar loan program to make it more affordable.

*Waukeshines, a partnership between the Waukesha County Green Team, the Waukesha County Solar Group Buy and SunVest Solar.

This list could grow as more group buy programs are announced for 2018.