Bruce Murphy
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Wisconsin Behind on Solar Rooftops

Just 0.2% of viable rooftops in state have rooftop solar, far behind national average.

By - Sep 10th, 2020 10:02 am
Solar installation training. Photo courtesy of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

Solar installation training. Photo courtesy of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

If you were wondering how Wisconsin is doing at installing rooftop solar, a website called Porch, a home services platform, has published a new report with some remarkably detailed information. To wit: 

-79.5 percent of all buildings in Wisconsin are solar-viable, meaning they can accommodate at least four solar panels. Nationally 84.2 percent of all buildings are solar viable. 

-But just 0.2 percent of solar viable buildings in Wisconsin have rooftop solar. The national figure (1.2 percent) is six times higher than Wisconsin and the top state of Hawaii (12.4 percent) has 62 times more of its viable buildings with solar rooftop installed than the state whose motto is “Forward”. 

-Of 900,707 solar viable buildings in Wisconsin, just 1,914 buildings have solar rooftop. That leaves 898,793 buildings to go! 

Bottom line: Wisconsin is way behind in installing solar rooftops, though it could be worse. The report ranks this state 24th and tied with Minnesota, which is s surprise given how far ahead of us it is in overall growth of renewable energy. Meanwhile the Dakotas scrape the bottom nationally, barely above a score of zero. Last place South Dakota has just 21 buildings in the entire state with rooftop solar, while more forward thinking North Dakota has three more, a total of 24 such buildings. Yes, this report does boost some very specific detail. 

While the big solar states are sunny places like Hawaii, California, Arizona and Florida, northerly states like Connecticut (12th highest) and Vermont (15th) are doing considerably better than Wisconsin. 

Nationally there has been much growth in solar installations. “Utility-scale solar generation has increased nearly 60-fold since 2010, and small-scale distributed solar PV generation has increased by almost 15-fold over the same time span,” report notes. “There are now more than 81 gigawatts of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 15.7 million homes,” according to data compiled by Solar Energy Industries Association.

The plunging cost of solar is helping drive this trend. “Since 2014, the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has dropped by almost 50 percent,” the report notes. “In the first quarter of 2020, solar made up 40 percent of new electricity generating capacity added in the U.S.”

But “price still a barrier to many U.S. households who want to install in rooftop solar,” the report notes. In Wisconsin the average payback period for installing solar panels is estimated at seven years and one month, meaning it will take that long for the monthly reduction in electric bills to pay back your investment. Helping to reduce the upfront cost is a 28 percent federal tax credit you can claim for installing solar. Finally, one study found “a solar home’s selling price is typically 3.74% higher or more than comparable properties without solar.”

All told rooftop solar looks like a pretty good investment. 

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One thought on “Back in the News: Wisconsin Behind on Solar Rooftops”

  1. David Coles says:

    I own one of the 1,914 Wisconsin buildings with rooftop solar, and can offer some insights into why this isn’t catching on faster. Utilities do not want people producing their own power, period. They have set up many disincentives. The utilities want industrial-scale solar and wind production that they continue to own and for which they can continue to charge gouging prices. This, despite the fact that distributed generation (production of electricity) at the same location of consumption (i.e. on buildings in cities and towns) loses far, far less electricity during transmission. I can’t speak about the rates of other utilities, but We Energies is discouraging conservation by boosting fixed “facilities” charges (>$15/month for electricity, even if net consumption is zero or less), and “generation” charges (~$2/month that the customer is charged… for generating clean energy!). In the event that your solar panels produce a surplus in a given month, We Energies purchases this for a whopping $0.04/kWh (vs. the ~$0.14/kWh they sell electricity for). It all comes down to policy, and these monopolies are supposed to serve the public interest. They are not.

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