Wisconsin has always been a state of significant natural resources and resourceful people. Utilizing our waterways, wealth in timber, and agricultural opportunities is what has helped Wisconsin thrive throughout our history. It is essential for the future of our state that we continue to make the most of the bountiful resources we are fortunate to have. For the 21st century, this includes the booming Wisconsin solar industry. The opportunity presented by community solar is vast, both in terms of in-state jobs and wealth created for the industry and in the form of expanding consumer choice for the average Wisconsinite.
Being a part of Arch Electric since its founding in 2003, I have had a front-row seat to the industry’s explosive growth as more Wisconsinites realize the incredible benefits solar has to offer. I have also seen how far we must go before catching up to our peers in the United States. We have grown from less than thirty to nearly a hundred people at Arch Electric in just the last two years. Part of that growth is fueled by the over 10 MW of community solar projects in Illinois that we have built.
Since these projects are currently not allowed in Wisconsin, the only option for this kind of work is to have our Wisconsin-based team travel to other states and, in many cases, spend several weeks living there to complete the projects. This is not only costly and inefficient but challenging for our workforce. In many cases, the more efficient route would have been to go with out-of-state labor. The number of community solar projects going up in our neighboring states puts Wisconsin solar installers in the poor position of turning down vital work or sending money out of state. If our local solar industry hopes to compete with our neighbors, we need to allow the free market to function by enabling community solar in Wisconsin. If we continue to limit the market, then out-of-state solar companies that have flourished on pro-business policies will find Wisconsin an easy poaching ground once we finally catch up. Allowing community solar projects is vital to keeping Wisconsin competitive in one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.
Community solar would not just benefit the local solar industry; it would greatly expand freedom of choice for homeowners and businesses in how they get their power. For rate-payers who can’t go solar on their own, most often due to lack of space or roof availability, community solar offers the choice to subscribe to a renewable energy source that can save them money and contribute to a more sustainable Wisconsin. Unlike coal shipped in from Kentucky or petroleum from Saudi Arabia, the energy from solar is generated right on Wisconsin soil. If Wisconsin wants to continue being an example of the strength of the free market and private ingenuity, how can we deny our citizens access to the power source of their choice?
Making the most of our natural resources is part of the Wisconsin identity and a foundational component in our success as a state. Undoubtedly, allowing community solar projects to be built in Wisconsin continues this tradition and a valuable expansion of the
free market. As we look to the future, we can see a Wisconsin that not only competes in this thriving industry but one that excels.
Written by Jolynn VanGinkel