Solar system installed for Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters

A Wisconsin nonprofit religious group called the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters has completed installation of three solar arrays at its facilities in the southwest corner of the state.

The solar system was put in place by Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque. It was funded in part by the statewide Focus on Energy program and RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program.

“This project represents an incredible investment in solar power,” said Sam Dunaiski, program manager for RENEW Wisconsin. “This is by far our largest Solar for Good project to date. It’s three times the size of the next largest project and generates enough electricity to power over 50 homes.”

The Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters received a $20,000 grant from Solar for Good in 2017. The program funds a certain percentage of solar installations for nonprofit organizations.

The group also received a $60,000 grant from Focus on Energy, which gives financial incentives to businesses and residential energy customers.

On top of those funds, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters invested over $400,000 to support the rest of the project.

“The installation of the solar energy systems is part of our Dominican commitment to respond to Pope Francis’ urgent summons of ‘Laudato Si’ to care for Earth, our home,” said Sister Angelo Collins, who serves on the leadership council of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.

The three new arrays will power a wastewater treatment plant, a well house and a nursing facility called St. Dominic Villa. According to a release from RENEW, each array will offset the organization’s electricity use by 30 percent, which would save over $35,000 in annual utility costs.

Mark Lydon, an energy advisor with Focus on Energy, says the arrays will have “the same effect as the avoidance of burning 3,000 tons of coal” over their lifetime. The program is funded by Wisconsin energy utilities.

Since RENEW’s Solar for Good program began, over $200,000 in grants has been given out, supporting $1.6 million in new solar projects.

In all, 21 nonprofits based in Wisconsin — including churches, schools and veterans’ facilities — have received grants. Their solar arrays will produce enough electricity to power nearly 150 homes, according to RENEW.

Grants from Solar for Good fund up to 20 percent of a solar array. That’s capped at $10,000 for smaller arrays, and $20,000 for larger ones. Participants must be financially stable, and must agree to educate community members about the benefits of solar energy.  

The fall 2018 funding round for Solar for Good wrapped up Nov. 13. Another round of funding will be announced in March.

–By Alex Moe