MON AM News: State begins local targeting of COVID-19 vaccinations; MGE looks to buy Koshkonong Solar Energy Center

— As vaccinations start to slow, local county health departments are beginning “hand-to-hand combat” to reach herd immunity.

The gap is closing between the percentage of people who have started their vaccine series and those who are fully vaccinated. This means fewer people are starting their vaccine series.

“We really thought demand would be like a bell curve, and it felt like a light switch to us,” said Tess Ellens, the COVID-19 vaccine deputy for Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Wisconsin opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older on April 5. That week, vaccinations peaked at more than 424,000 doses after seven consecutive weeks of weekly vaccination records. The next week, doses administered fell to roughly 352,000; the next was about 297,000 doses. Last week, the Department of Health Services’ early data shows just over 224,000 doses, putting the state at 34.5 percent who are fully vaccinated. 

From the data DHS provides on its vaccination webpage, the groups that lead the vaccination are those 65 and older at 75.4 percent fully vaccinated and white residents at nearly 33 percent.

Mass vaccination sites work well for people who are eager to get the vaccine, Ellens said. But now, the state is in the middle group of people who had a “wait and see” approach. 

The groups that lag are those ages 16-17, who are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine as of April 5, at 10.4 percent fully vaccinated, Black Wisconsinites at 14.4 percent, and Hispanics at about 18 percent.

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— Madison Gas and Electric, in partnership with WEC Energy Group, is seeking approval from the PSC to buy the Koshkonong Solar Energy Center. 

If approved, MGE will own 30 megawatts of solar energy and 16.5 megawatts of battery storage from the facility located in the Towns of Christiana and Deerfield in Dane County.

“We are transforming our grid for the future in a number of different ways, one of which is growing our use of cost-effective, renewable generation to decarbonize our energy supply,” explained Jeff Keebler, MGE president and CEO. “The Koshkonong Solar Energy Center and other recently announced renewable projects will help us manage long-term costs to customers.”

MGE announced earlier this year plans to purchase the Paris Solar-Battery Park, Darien Solar Energy Center and Red Barn Wind Farm. Together, these projects are expected to help power more than 26,000 MGE households by the end of 2023.

“There is no fuel cost with solar and wind energy, and battery storage will help us manage costs and maintain our top-ranked electric reliability as we transition to greater use of renewables,” Keebler said.

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— DATCP is accepting nominations for two seats on the Wisconsin Soybean Board.

Producers that grow and sell soybeans in Districts 2 and 6 are eligible to nominate producers for the board. 

District 2 includes Buffalo, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix and Trempealeau counties. District 6 encompasses Jefferson, Kenosha, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties.

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— E.C. Styberg Engineering Company in Racine and Stowell Associates in Milwaukee are the first two recipients of DWD’s new Workforce Equity Grants.

The Department of Workforce Development’s grant will help the two businesses fund workforce training and skill development, targeting traditionally underserved communities. 

The IKEA U.S. Community Foundation donated $947,000 to DWD to address workforce needs in southeastern Wisconsin with a focus on improving racial equity in employment. The dollar amount reflects the amount of money IKEA Retail U.S. employees collected in Wisconsin unemployment insurance benefits when the company closed stores and furloughed employees during the start of the pandemic.

E.C. Styberg Engineering, which manufactures metal components, got $306,190 to implement an occupational training program in partnership with Gateway Technical College. The company plans to provide training to 14 current and 10 new employees in technical fields such as applied mathematics, CNC machining and mechanical maintenance. 

Stowell Associates, a caregiving service provider for elderly and disabled adults and their families, got $63,460 to help fund its Caregiver University. It will train 75 current and 25 new employees. 

The two businesses will recruit people from underserved populations. DWD will be accepting more applications for Workforce Equity Grants later this year.

— DWD is celebrating five years of the first-in-the-nation arborist apprenticeship program. 

The arborist apprenticeship program takes approximately three years to complete, with roughly 6,000 hours of on-the-job training. However, a key piece to the program is that apprentices do not have to take extra time to find a paying job while they are receiving training — they are full-time employees getting paid to learn.

Wachtel Tree Science, along with Hoppe Tree Services and Crawford Tree and Landscape, had the first arborist apprentices in Wisconsin. The group saw Wisconsin’s apprenticeship program as an opportunity in developing a workforce in the green industry.

“A strong apprenticeship program creates an opportunity for workforce development, where the demand for arborists far outweighs the supply,” said Ben Reince, executive vice president of Wachtel Tree Science.

— The Madison International Trade Association is discussing BREXIT on May 11.

BREXIT is the decision recently implemented by the U.K. to pull out of the European Union. The conversation will feature industry executives Simon Hart of RSM U.K., Jim Poulton of Trek Bicycles and Tom Thornton of the Irish International Freight Association.

The trio will give an “on the ground perspective” on how BREXIT has changed day to day business operations between Europe and the U.K.

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— The virtual 2021 Entrepreneurs’ Conference is one month away. 

Produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the June 3 event has been a signature event for entrepreneurs, investors and others in the early stage sector since launched in 2003. 

Fetch Rewards founder Wes Schroll is one of the speakers at the conference. The company has raised $328 million in angel and venture capital over time and is one of the few startups with headquarters outside of Silicon Valley or New York to reach the unicorn valuation milestone of $1 billion.

Listen to the latest “WisBusiness: The Podcast” episode featuring Schroll: 

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# 2 Killed, Gunman Slain In Shooting At Green Bay Casino

# Wisconsin surpasses 2 million fully vaccinated people 

# Local restaurants struggle to find workers



– Agronomist surprised by how dry it is in many parts of the Midwest 

– State Corn And Bean Prices Head Higher 

– Biodiesel Has Health Benefits 


– Fiveable names chief experience officer Tán Ho a co-founder of the company 


– Thousands register as opening day nears for Restaurant Revitalization Fund 


– Wisconsin’s Multigenerational Homes Face Higher COVID-19 Risk 

– New vaccinations stagnant across western Wisconsin 


– College graduates experience a new job search during the pandemic 


– Johnson Controls adds $250 million to its cost saving targets 


– Confirmation for DATCP Secretary-Designee Romanski Looming 


– Apartment project planned at former Porters site in Racine 


– The Tap Yard plans beer gardens in downtown Milwaukee, Glendale and Waukesha 


– Reset, restart: Madison-area businesses embrace new reality 


– Warehouse automation company to hire 100 employees for its Wauwatosa office 


– MSO’s move to its new home presents new scheduling opportunities for the Marcus Center 


– Senate considering Great Lakes icebreaking mandate to help winter shipping 


– We Energies, WPS plan to invest $649 million in Dane County solar project 

– Boosting Local Internet 


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

– MGE: Announces plans for Dane County Solar and Battery Storage project

– We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service: Announce state’s largest renewable energy project

– Dept. of Workforce Development: First-in-the-nation arborist apprenticeship program celebrates 5 years

– University of Wisconsin: Statement on new appointments to the Board of Regents