“Solar for Good” program offers assistance to Wisconsin nonprofits

A grant program called “Solar for Good” invites Wisconsin nonprofits to apply for grants to install solar panels. The deadline for the Spring 2022 grant cycle is May 1. The program helps reduce the initial costs of solar installations by providing approximately $150,000 in cash and material donations to mission-based organizations and places of worship.

RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization based in Madison, administers the Solar for Good program with funding from the Couillard Solar Foundation. The grants will cover up to 50% of the costs of the solar panels needed for a project. The value of these panel grants can range from about $12,000 for small projects to $25,000 for large installations, according to Sam Dunaiski of RENEW Wisconsin. The program is also now accepting applications for cash grants to cover up to 20% of the cost of a solar installation.

Since 2017, Solar for Good has awarded grants to 118 nonprofits throughout Wisconsin. Milwaukee area grantees include Alice’s Garden, Escuela Verde, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Authority of Milwaukee, Kathy’s House, Victory Garden Initiative, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Social Development Foundation, and Walnut Way Conservation Corporation.

With their grant, the Redeemer Lutheran Church, redemptionmilwaukee.org, on North 19th Street in Milwaukee, worked with SunBadger Solar to design a 68-panel array for the southern exposure on the roof of the church’s 1917 sanctuary . Current Electric installed the grid in the summer of 2019. Reverend Lisa Bates-Froiland said the monitoring software showed evidence of energy cost reductions by one-third to one-half in the months following activation.

“Pandemic conditions reduced church energy demand for much of 2020-21,” she said. “However, the congregation’s main motivation for using solar energy is the biblical mandate that humans should be wise stewards of the world created by God. The decrease in reliance on fossil fuels demonstrates faithful stewardship and plays a vital role in maintaining breathable air, cleaner water, and slowing the rate of damaging climate change.Redeemer Lutheran plans to eventually install additional solar panels.

Solar for Good grants totaling more than $1.1 million have spurred nearly $10 million in renewable energy projects statewide, Dunaiski said. The Solar for Good program is largely about bringing more equity to access to solar power, Dunaiski said. “The upfront cost is the biggest hurdle, so we’re trying to lower those costs to make it more accessible to nonprofits.” A secondary benefit is that people associated with recipient organizations “see solar energy in action”. He said these smaller-scale community solar projects demonstrate how renewable energy can reduce utility bills, reduce pressure on the power grid and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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The 127 completed Solar for Good grant projects now provide clean energy to Wisconsin nonprofits that generate 4,340 kilowatts of renewable energy, enough to power more than 800 average-sized households. The Couillard Solar Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to “advance the urgent path to decarbonization for Wisconsin.”

Solar for Good also provides technical support and helps connect organizations to trusted solar design companies and help with site assessments and technical reviews.

How to register

Eligibility for the grant program requires that a nonprofit organization be: registered as a 501(c)3 organization in Wisconsin, financially sound, ready to install solar power, and willing to participate in educating community members on the benefits of solar energy. If approved for a grant, a recipient organization must complete all fundraising, design, and installation of the solar project within 12 months. Priority will be given to organizations working in the areas of social justice, education, technology and innovation, and those working with people of color, older adults and children.

Applications for the Solar for Good Spring 2022 cycle are due Sunday, May 1, 2022. Grant approval announcements will be made by Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Organizations can get more information and apply at following: refreshwisconsin.org/solarforgood.

Virginia small

Virginia Small is an award-winning journalist and lifelong writer. She has been editor-in-chief of a national magazine, journalist and cultural editor for several newspapers, and contributor to numerous national and regional publications.

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April 15, 2022

1:11 p.m.

Ryan H. Bowman