Grants supporting solar panels funded by Deerfield philanthropists

Nonprofits and religious groups can get grant funding for new solar panels this spring thanks to two Deerfield philanthropists.

Through RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative, Cal and Laurie Couillard aim to make a positive financial and environmental impact.

That’s according to Katherine Klausing, engagement manager at RENEW Wisconsin. She says “we want to help local nonprofit organizations and houses of worship, who are working every day to improve our communities, join the solar movement.”

Helping these groups is important, she says, because they don’t get some of the same tax benefits for solar energy projects as other types of businesses.

Just last year, 16 nonprofits across the state received grants through Solar for Good thanks to their donation.

Once complete, these projects are estimated to help pay for $1.2 million in solar investment and add 573 kilowatts of new solar projects to the state. According to program guidelines, they should all be finished by the end of 2018.

In this round of grants, $110,000 is available to nonprofit organizations and religious groups to support the installation of new solar panel systems. Up to 20 percent of the cost of the solar array can be funded, with a cap of $10,000 for smaller systems and $20,000 for larger ones.

These groups can also get small grants for technical assistance with site assessments and other supportive services before buying into the program, which began in 2017.

The first Solar for Good grantee to complete installation was the Beth Israel Center in Madison, which had a 62 kilowatt solar array installed with help from SunVest Solar and Legacy Solar Co-op.

Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Fond du Lac received a grant for new solar panels in 2017, and church leader Barbara Roder says “we were thrilled.”

“This incentive was just what we needed to move us from thinking about solar to doing it,” she said.

“These organizations will be able to generate their own clean, renewable energy, save money on their utility bills, and reinvest the energy cost savings back into their work,” Klausing said.

She says RENEW expects three more years of grant funding, with about $100,000 given out every fall and spring.

Any registered nonprofit that’s willing to help educate the community about solar energy benefits can apply. All fundraising, design and installation must be finished within 12 months.

Applications are due April 9, and awardees will be announced April 15.

–By Alex Moe