Solar Tosa

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which has partnered for years with the City of Milwaukee’s Milwaukee Shines program, and most recently with the Village of Shorewood, will continue promoting solar energy throughout Milwaukee. For 2017, the group will be working with the Village of Wauwatosa on the Solar Tosa group buy program.

Wauwatosa homeowner Jill McClellan and her family hope to save money on their electric bills this summer by adding solar panels to their roof. A solar group buy program lowers the cost of solar through the power of volume purchasing.

McClellan has helped coordinate the effort in Wauwatosa and originally reached out to the MREA. “I wanted to find out if solar would work on my house, so I started doing a little bit of research,” she said. “That’s when I heard about the MREA and their group buys with Milwaukee Shines. I thought, why not try it in Tosa?”

“Jill reached out and asked if we had any plans to do another group buy right around the time when we were considering which communities to focus on this year,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program manager for MREA. “She started talking to businesses like Red Dot, Camp Bar, and Tosa Yoga right away. It was clear that there would be support locally.”

The group buy programs turn to local individuals, organizations, and businesses to help spread the word. “MREA handles all the logistics of the Power Hours and program management and checks in weekly with the solar installer, and community members and local businesses help spread the word about solar in their community,” said Murphy.

In 2016, the MREA partnered with the City of Milwaukee and the Village of Shorewood and the joint programs led to solar installations on 52 properties for a total of 174 kW of solar — or about 522 individual solar panels.

“Going solar in the first instance was based primarily on doing the right thing environmentally,” said Dan Bucks, a Milwaukee resident who went solar through the program in 2016. “That decision, though, is reinforced by the fact that solar is financially sound, especially when one considers that energy costs will begin to rise again in the next three or four years.

“Now is a good time because the economics of solar have reached the point of breaking even over a reasonable period of years — especially with the advantages of MREA's Solar Buy program,” said Bucks.

Through a competitive public bid process, Pewaukee-based solar installation firm SunVest Solar and Current Electric have been selected to be the program’s installation team of choice. SunVest Solar was established in 2009, stemming from customer demand for net-zero energy homes, and Current Electric has been in business since 1983 offering a variety of solar installation and electrical services. Since their inception, both companies continue to provide residential solar photovoltaic (PV) services and have expanded to also include large-scale commercial and industrial PV systems. SunVest’s experience totals over 600 solar projects and Current has installed over 125 PV projects. As a partnership, SunVest and Current successfully implemented two 2016 group buys similar to this program.

The MREA is a renewable energy professional development and training organization in the Midwest. The MREA has also coordinated group buy programs in the Eau Claire area, Iowa County, WI; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Bloomington-Normal, IL; Madison County, IL; and Cedar Rapids, IA.

Over the next few months MREA will provide free, public, one-hour long educational sessions called Solar Power Hours for prospective participants to learn how solar energy works and to answer questions. The programs’ websites — and — include a sign-up form which will be used to announce Solar Power Hour sessions and program updates.

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