• WisBusiness

Thursday, September 23, 2010

GreenBiz: Milwaukee ready to shine during Solar Week

By Gregg Hoffmann
Contrary to stereotypes of the gloomy, cloudy Midwest, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin in general, are very conducive to effective use of solar energy, and in fact have developed into leaders in the country in that field.

That fact will be highlighted during Milwaukee Solar Week, Sept. 28- Oct. 2. Milwaukee Shines, the city of Milwaukee's solar program, will team with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and other organizations and businesses to showcase renewable energy successes and opportunities during the week.

We Energies and Focus on Energy also are hosting solar events during the week. Milwaukee Shines is coordinating the week.

“The city is fortunate to be hosting two premier professional solar conferences, which will highlight all Milwaukee has to offer a growing solar market,” said Matt Howard, director of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability.

Professionals and the general public will both find things of interest during the week.

“Milwaukee Solar Week has something for everyone,” said Amy Heart, Milwaukee’s Solar Coach and MREA’s Milwaukee Director. “This is a perfect chance to get information on installing solar on your home, find out how to get in the solar business or establish business connections in this growing industry.”

Heart emphasized that Milwaukee and Wisconsin do get an average of 4 ½ hours of sunlight per day. “That’s more than Germany, and Germany is an energy exporter,” she added.

Solar technology today allows for more efficient storage of energy, to be used at a later time when the sun is not shining.

Milwaukee has been named a Solar America City by the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2008, the city and region had two installers of solar technology. Today, there are 22, and the number continues to grow.

“Milwaukee is seeing an increase in solar installations,” Howard said. “We have a growing solar workforce, and we have a number of companies starting or expanding that are strengthening our local solar supply chain.”

Heart said professionals and business people interested in solar will be interested in Wisconsin’s Solar Decade on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Industry experts from around the country will be on hand for the one-day conference.
Solar Thermal ‘10 will be held on Thursday and Friday of Solar Week. It is a national conference and expo geared to the solar thermal professional and devoted to solar heating and cooling. The Milwaukee Metro Solar Hot Water Business Council will unveil the results of a national solar thermal supply chain research project during that event.

MREA also will be offering five workshops on Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Waukesha County Technical College. They will range from Basic Photovoltaics to a new workshop for commercial real estate investors.

A three-hour Solar 101 seminar will give an overview of solar systems for the general public on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.

The Milwaukee Solar Tour on Saturday will highlight homes and other buildings that are using solar and other green technologies. Among those are the Krepel home in the Bay View neighborhood, which has achieved net zero energy use through the use of solar electric and retrofitting.

Another tour highlight is the Amaranth Bakery on Lisbon Street which has cut its energy costs by using a 120-gallon solar hot water storage tank. “Small businesses like bakeries, coffee shops, brew pubs can realize a saving and return very quickly,” Heart said.

Two churches -- First Unitarian in downtown Milwaukee and First Congregational in Port Washington -- also are on the tour. “They have participated in a We Energies program for non-profits that is growing,” Heart said.

Milwaukee Shines is led by the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability. Partners include We Energies, Focus on Energy, Johnson Controls, MREA, UW-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

In October, 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Milwaukee Shines won a special projects award to further support Milwaukee’s solar market. Under this award, additional partners, including community groups and schools were brought into the program.

“Solar Week provides us with a great opportunity to highlight all that is going on in solar in Milwaukee and to reach out to the public and professionals,” Heart said.

Find out more about Milwaukee Shines and Solar Week by going to

-- Hoffmann has written many columns and features for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com over the years. He will write the GreenBiz column monthly.


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