By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Many people would agree that solar power is a good thing, but one of the downsides is the cost. Group buy purchases like the one the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office did with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association could be a solution.
The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office celebrated its most successful year of the solar group purchase program at Walnut Way, 1617 W. North Ave., on Thursday, Nov. 11. This year, 64 homes and business owners participated in the program and 421 kilowatts of solar installations were installed.
Peter Murphy is the solar program director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, a group which promotes renewable energy through education and demonstration. Murphy explained that the solar group buy program began in 2013 in Riverwest and has since expanded to include the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
“Improving home energy performance and reducing electricity bills is a big priority in Milwaukee and many places around the country,” Murphy said.
Mayor Tom Barrett said the City of Milwaukee has come a long way in the past decade when it comes to renewable energy. He expressed his pride for the community partners who helped move these efforts forward.
“Politics are local, but the ramifications are worldwide,” he said.
Part of the city’s efforts include Milwaukee Shines (Solar), a project under the Environmental Collaboration Office, which began in 2008. The goal was to expand solar energy, reduce energy costs and create jobs. At the time, the goal was to establish a megawatt of solar capacity, which it accomplished through group buys, Barrett said.
The first year it did a group buy, the city had one partner and 17 homes, he said, this year it has 14 partners and 64 homes and two businesses. The two businesses were Walnut Way and the Cactus Club. To date, 282 homes and businesses have been installed with solar power.
It is urgent that Milwaukee reduces its use of fossil fuels, Barrett said, especially given its proximity to the lake, which is prone to flooding due to climate change.
“The strongest weapon that we have to combat global warming, climate change, progressive policies for decarbonization, progressive policies for solar and all renewables are resilient communities,” Antonio Butts said.
Butts is the the executive director of Walnut Way Conservation Corporation.
Walnut Way received a neighborhood certification from the Environmental Collaboration Office for its sustainability efforts. In addition to installing a solar and batter storage system, Walnut Way worked with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and hosted a solar training academy. Ten individuals received scholarships to continue solar training and two of the trainees received intern position for Arch Electric.
“For us a resilient community is one where people and the building environment are in alignment, with environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, social sustainability,” Butts said. “That’s what we’re trying to here in Lindsay Heights, build a resilient community.”
The Walnut Way Innovation Commons is an example of a resilience hub, he said.
Angie Kochanski is the residential sales manager for Arch Electric, the program’s solar installer. During the press conference, she praised the individuals who are making renewable energy accessible to everyone in Milwaukee.
“It’s exciting to see our city arrive on the map as a leader in renewable energy and I look forward to watching this trend continue,” Kochanski said in the press release.