THU AM News: Solar project providing electricity for 40 percent of Dane County facilities; Census data show 6.8 percent of state residents had no health insurance in 2020

— In its first nine months of operation, the Dane County Regional Airport’s latest solar project has produced enough electricity to power 1,200 Wisconsin homes for a year. 

County officials and Madison Gas and Electric Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler highlighted the solar partnership yesterday. After going online in December 2020, the array now provides electricity for about 40 percent of county facilities. It’s the third solar installation at the airport. 

The county has set a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable electricity at county-owned facilities by 2024. Dane County currently gets about 45 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, a release shows. 

“Not only is the project reducing county operating costs, but it also created local job opportunities during the pandemic,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Clean energy efforts like this one benefit our environment, the local economy, and Dane County taxpayers.”

MGE has also set a renewable energy goal, aiming for net-zero carbon electricity for all of its customers by 2050. The company says it’s on track to reach 65 percent carbon reductions by 2030. 

“Travelers and drivers along Highway 51 will see this large array and know our community is committed to growing clean energy,” Keebler said. 

The project has about 31,000 solar panels that track the sun covering 58 acres of county-owned land north of the airport. Under the partnership agreement, the county leases the land to MGE, which then sells electricity generated there to the county. The release shows the county projects energy savings of about $137,000 through its purchase agreement with MGE over the project’s first year of operation. 

See more on the project: 

— About 6.8 percent of state residents had no health insurance last year, according to the latest Census data provided by the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. 

Based on figures from the Wisconsin Family Health Survey, an estimated 7.4 percent of state residents were without health insurance for all or part of 2019. In 2018, the uninsured rate was about 7 percent, the survey results show. 

“Because there is a range and from different sources, we would say that the typical uninsured rate is around 7 percent and a short-term trend in either direction is not clear,” Sarah Smith, director of public affairs for OCI, said in an email. 

Smith noted that OCI has been working with the Department of Health Services and other entities to expand health coverage in the state. 

“During the Special Enrollment Period earlier this year, 33,716 Wisconsinites got enrolled which was more than double the enrollment during the same time period in 2020,” she said. 

That number was 16,411 in 2020 and 16,908 in 2019, a report from the Health and Human Services Administration shows. 

See the Census Bureau data: 

— ThedaCare is warning that it’s nearing “staffed-bed capacity” to care for inpatient and COVID-19 patients. 

“We are facing a serious surge in COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, and we need our communities’ help to change course and get infections under control,” ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran A. Andrabi said in a statement. 

He’s urging state residents to get vaccinated and take precautions to help slow the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. Hospitals were nearing capacity around this time last year, but because the vaccines were not yet available, many of those hospitalized were older and more susceptible to the virus. 

“Now, that group of individuals, those 65 and older, are better protected by vaccinations, with a very high percentage fully vaccinated,” Andrabi said. “What we are seeing at this time is those who are falling ill with COVID-19 are younger and overall healthier.” 

While younger people can fight off the virus for longer, that also means their hospital stays are “often extended,” Andrabi said. That means more beds are occupied for longer and unavailable for incoming patients. 

The release shows that since the start of July, 79 percent of COVID-19 patients at ThedaCare hospitals have been unvaccinated, while 83 percent of its ICU patients have been unvaccinated. ThedaCare operates hospitals and health centers in the state’s northeastern and central regions. 

Statewide, Department of Health Services site shows 88.6 percent of hospital beds were in use as of Sept. 7, compared to 91.2 percent of ICU beds. The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows 1,054 people in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, while 321 are in the ICU due to the virus. 

See the DHS hospital data here: 

See the WHA dashboard here: 

— The Department of Natural Resources is accepting public comments on Wisconsin Specialty Recycling’s application for its Slinger facility to join the agency’s Green Tier Program. 

The company “remarkets” electronic components and computers by working with nonprofits and information technology businesses, providing rural areas and other countries with these products. It’s seeking to join Tier 1 of the program, which is meant to “encourage, recognize and reward companies committed to superior environmental performance,” the release shows. 

“Our mission is to reduce electronic waste stream environmental impact through remarketing, repair capability and customer awareness,” said Tristan Myhre, owner of WISR.

A release from the DNR shows the company is developing an environmental management system and plans to conduct energy audits to reduce energy use, improve the facility’s HVAC efficiency and install a solar system by 2025. 

To be accepted into the Green Tier Program, companies must have a strong environmental record and agree to set goals related to sustainability for assessing improvement. 

The DNR is asking the company’s “customers, neighbors and stakeholders” and others to submit comments on the application by Oct. 15. 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Johnson Financial Group have begun the first round of voting for the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest. 

In this year’s contest, 150 nominees will take part in a popular vote between Sept. 15-21 which will narrow down the field to the top 16 products. Subsequent rounds of voting will conclude Oct. 14, with this year’s winner announced at WMC’s Business Day Event in Pewaukee. 

Nominated products this year include pontoon boats, outboard motors, mining equipment and a number of food products including donuts, fried chicken filets and summer sausage. 

See the list of nominated products here and cast votes here: 

See the release: 

Listen to a recent podcast on the contest: 

— The Center for Technology Commercialization is now accepting applications from small businesses for its 18th round of the SBIR Advance grant, the organization announced recently.

“The SBIR Advance Phase II program … is focused on helping companies gain the traction needed to attract investors and strategic partners,” SBIR Advance Program Manager Brian Walsh said in a statement. “To our next round of teams, we can’t wait to work with you and help you achieve key milestones in your path to commercialization.”

According to a release, SBIR Advance matches up to $100,000 in funding to provide additional assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the federal Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

To be eligible, the applicant companies must be based in Wisconsin, have an SBIR/STTR project in either Phase I or Phase II of funding and complete the “intent to Apply” form by 9 a.m. Oct. 25.

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Unvaccinated nearly 9 times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin

# Milwaukee Bucks make history with new play-by-play announcer

# West Milwaukee seeks minor changes in GE Healthcare’s plan for 150-employee facility



– Farm Bureau names Excellence in Ag Award finalists


– Building Blocks: River Flats


– WROF awards second-ever Premier Scholarship

– Jill Biden visits Milwaukee elementary to hear from parents, teachers about virtual learning and return to school


– Douglas County designated as primary natural disaster area


– MPE Inc. sells digital medication management solution to Milwaukee investor group


– Judge won’t let lawmakers, hunters join DNR board lawsuit

– Kaul joins coalition of attorneys general to oppose Texas abortion law


– Mayor Barrett says ambassador confirmation could take two to nine months


– The Pabst Theater Group to move administrative offices to Empire Building

– Industrial chemical maker could take over new industrial facility on Milwaukee’s far northwest side

– Cap Times Idea Fest: Conversation gets heated over affordable housing in Madison


– Coalition of groups propose alternative to I-94 expansion


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

MobCraft Beer: To host fourth annual Mobtoberfest on Sunday, October 3.

Gov. Evers, Dept. of Health Services: Remind Wisconsinites to get vaccinated to get $100