Update: January 11th, 2014
Visit our new site:
Late in 2013, we finished installing our first municipal solar project for the wonderful community of Monona, Wisconsin. This project was funded by one individual but the whole community is involved in supporting and ultimately taking full ownership of this project.
July 28, 2011
Hello Community Solar Fans!
I know it's been a long time, but I've got some urgent news to relay to you all.
Remember how we originally tried to see if we could organize a COMMUNITY SOLAR COOPERATIVE in order to set up a group-financed project for solar power? Well, one of the major stumbling blocks has always been SECURITIES registration requirements. There was a time (not too long ago) when cooperatives had been exempt from some securities requirements for offering or selling securities (a piece of the pie, so to speak). This all changed with an inadvertent bill in 2009. Email me for a copy of this proposed bill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Republican (any port in a storm) legislator by the name of Al Ott (R-Forest Junction) is sponsoring legislation to reverse the changes that disqualified cooperatives from the SEC exemption status that had previously been enjoyed for decades.
Please contact your state represenatives (assembly and senate) to encourage passage of this bill. We want favorable regulatory policies that are not serving only the elite corporate classes (like those who pass along out-of-state ALEC legislation) but which serve farmer's coops, food coops, housing coops, buying coops, and yes, solar coops.
On that note, I am meeting with potential host sites for a community solar project this fall. Let me know if you might be interested in learning more.
Oh, and please check out my blog and twitter accounts below.
Solar Connections, LLC
3509 Lucia Crest
Madison, WI 53705
Cell (608) 957-6801
November 8, 2010 Update:
For those of you interested in the 30% Cash Grant / Investment Tax Credit for Solar (and other qualifying energy investments), see the following US Treasury link: http://www.ustreas.gov/recovery/1603.shtml
Did you know that if a business invests in a solar array right now, that the upfront payments will buy you 40+ years of clean green electricity for about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Chances are, you are already paying twice or three times that much for your grid electricity. Contact Solarconnections@gmail.com to find out more!
September 28th, 2010 update:
Hope all you solar enthusiasts check out some of the thousands of Solar Open Houses and open businesses that will be showcasing solar technologies and other smart energy products and practices this Saturday, October 2nd. Check out www.the-mrea.org for sites in Wisconsin.
Check out also a smart article on a much-needed change to our tax code that should help improve ACCESS to the solar investment tax credit -- It is about the inability for small investors in a business enterprise to take advantage of Pass-Through credits (for instance in a LLC or through passive ownership of a 3rd party array) -- Here's the link:
Community Solar Wisconsin is still in development phase; but, we are poised to start a pilot project. Please contact Kurt to learn more about this project and how you might be able to get involved. Solarconnections@gmail.com
We'll be seeing you!
July 27th, 2010 Update:
Hello Community Solar Fans! It's been a long hot summer so far and it's not even August yet. I will post our household's solar production stats soon; but, for now, I just want to invite anyone interested in attending a talk I'm giving on Thursday, August 5th at the Goodman Atwood Community Center on Waubesa Street here in Madison at 3:30pm. It is being coordinated wtih Sustainable Atwood's hosting of this year's Madison Non-Profit Day -- For more information, see their website at --
Hope to see you there!
May 6th, 2010 Update:
NEXT INFORMATIONAL MEETING -- Thursday, May 27th
- Plymouth Congregational Church
2401 Atwood Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
- Potluck (bring some eats) at 6pm
- Solar Presentation and Q&A at 7pm
Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for other dates and times in June!!!
March 15th, 2010 Update:
March-April 2010: Test business plan assumptions
April-May 2010: Form Steering Committee for future
membership organization (co-op or 501-c3).
May-June 2010: Membership dues to apply to start-up
expenses for fund development;
June-July 2010: Start fund-raising for project 1.
July-August 2010: Finalize host-site for project 1.
Sept-Oct 2010: First "Solar Loan" applied to
project 1, hopefully to be developed in
fall of 2010.
Nov-December 2010: Apply lessons learned from 1st project
and start over again with project 2.
see CSW BLUEPRINT Page for more information.
February 13th, 2010 Update:
Submitted the final report for the research project funded in part by a Focus on Energy business and marketing grant. See all the documents submitted at our online group on wiserearth.org site for Community Solar Wisconsin at: http://www.wiserearth.org/group/commsolarmadison
See our new and ever-evolving CSW BLUEPRINT page!
January 10th, 2010 Update:
We were awarded a grant to research legal and financing barriers to a group-owned solar project, and have been narrowing the focus for our business model. Also, we are investigating peer-to-peer and microfinance models as a way of pooling resources to fund a community solar project. Will work on final report this week for the Focus on Energy grant and make available all the products of this research.
September 9th, Update:
Waiting for reply from Focus on Energy regarding our grant application to work out the details for overcoming barriers to maximize the feasibility of our type of group-funded solar project.
Met with David Jenkins today (along with Anne Reynolds), and learned a whole lot more about how cooperatives work (and don't work) in Wisconsin. This will be valuable information when we get to the point of narrowing the scope of research for our legal and accounting team.
By the way, I have officially invited both the legal and accounting team to be part of our core "Advisory Team". We all have a vested interest in overcoming barriers to adopting renewable energy, and to improving access to investing in renewable energy. Community Solar Wisconsin will be a huge help to bringing motivated small investors into the larger tent of renewable energy "ownership". If the public service commission and the state of wisconsin has made our state a "Net Metering" state, this will help bring private ownership of renewable energy projects to more and more small investors.
We will hold another meeting within the next month to "Beta Test" 2 or 3 different scenarios for investing in these group projects.
July 11th Update:
1. Advisory Team includes Anne Reynolds, Eric Sundquist, and Larry Walker.
2. Kurt to apply for Focus on Energy Grant to help tackle complicated legal questions and to help better shape our business plan;
3. Asking PrairieFire Biofuels Education Foundation to be a fiscal agent for this grant.
4. Approaching MGE this week with proposal for solar-charging station for electric vehicles -- will try to test the waters for a possible partnership with Community Solar.
5. New idea is to have an institutional investor/s, a municipality (bond), or a utility buy the original photovoltaic array, and then sell "Shares" to the public. See the following link for a similar project from Ashland, Oregon - - click HERE to open new window for this link.
June 25th Update:
1. Met on June 23rd with approximately 11 interested folks from the community AND about 1/2 of whom have met for the second or third time now.
2. We re-introduced the general motivation behind the group's mission and some possible models of organization.
3. Discussed some legal challenges we hope to address through a focus on energy grant with some local legal expert/s.
4. We are starting to form an "Advisory Team" to help steer the formation of a viable business plan and to inform the growth of this group's ideas into action.
5. See the online group for more information:
6. Please email Kurt if you want to receive weekly email updates at
June 6th Update:
1. Started a new internet group as a forum for our "Co-op" development
Go to: http://www.wiserearth.org/group/commsolarmadison to view and participate. If you received an
email invitation, click on the JOIN button (it's faster, I think).
2. Will start a grant application to help us ferret out solutions to the legal barriers to group ownership of off-site solar projects. Please join the forum above and offer your input. Thank you! :)
June 2nd Update:
1. Next meeting? please email email@example.com for your preference on when to meet next. I'm hoping for Tuesday, June 23rd.
2. Assignments. If you have an idea about how to best structure this "3rd-Party Ownership" model, whether it is as a COOPERATIVE or as a LLC, or some other structure, please flesh out your ideas and share them with Kurt during the month of June, before the next meeting. thank you.
3. Important considerations. There are documents floating around about these subjects, and I wanted to make them available to more of our group participants.
SEE http://www.wiserearth.org/group/commsolarmadison for many interesting documents.
SEE LINKS page for some good links on solar topics and local solar businesses.
May 28th Update:
1. Meeting tonight at 7pm Goodman Center;
2. Interesting powerpoint on Solar Economics for Buildings to be found at this link:
3. List of Questions for tonight's meeting
a. To explore viability of a COOPERATIVE structure for our group (as opposed to a LLC, etc);
b. To determine HOW to structure relationship in order to allow INVESTORS to receive ITC;
c. To determine HOW to structure relationship in order to maximize use of MACRS (Modified Accelerated
Cost Recovery System);
d. Whether to use a PPA model or a solar lease model?
e. What are the EXPENSES for this venture? What is the minimum necessary tinvestment (beyond the solar equipment) in order to conduct this business? (the following list was borrowed as potential costs...)
i) Liability Insurance Premiums
$2M per occurrence general liability policy (MG&E requires $300,000 liability...?)
$13,000 to $25,000 per year (??)
ii) Attorney Fees
iii) Income Tax on Rebate
iv) Property Taxes
$900 per kW assessment basis for PPA’s only
▪ defined as utility’s by Colorado Division of Property Taxation (what about Wisconsin?)
Local assessed for all others projects
v) Interest expense for debt financing
vi) O&M Costs
*Inverter replacement in year X
*Service Agreements with Installer
*Subscription fees for monitoring solution
(Expenses list taken fro Namaste Solar Electric, Colorado. See web address --
Overview of May 4th Meeting (not officially minutes, per se)
(Caveat: if we participate in the utility-sponsored Green Partners Program and enroll in the Advanced Renewable Tariff (ART) program, we may not OWN the rights to the “Green Tags” or the Renewable Energy Credit (REC), for we could be “selling” those rights to the utility, who can use it to count toward the Renewable Portfolio Standard mandated by the State (and perhaps, eventually, by the Feds)).
Thank you for reading this far down the page. Now you will be rewarded with some excellent good news.
Jeffrey Ford of Madison Gas and Electric confirmed for us last week that MGE has now been given the go-ahead to expand their Clean Power Partner program from 300 kilowatts to 1 megawatt. That means a greater than 300% increase in the capacity that MGE is willing to offer for the Advanced Renewable Tariff price of $.25 per kilowatt-hour to participating customers for the first 10 years of the interconnection with the utility. This move will hopefully pave the way for a much larger increase in renewable energy projects being developed not only in the MG&E territory, but also in the whole state of Wisconsin in general.
What is an Advanced Renewable Tariff, you ask? Here is a link to an excellent article explaining the history and the rationale for such an instrument. Link.
More information on the MG&E Clean Power Partner program? Click here.
Summary of Incentives available to maximize our effectiveness in promoting renewable energy:
Wisconsin's Focus on Energy Cash Rebate Program for Solar. Click here for details.
REAP = Rural Energy for America Program. Click here for details.
Advanced Renewable Tariff (ART): More information? Click on this Link.
Questions? inquire at Solarconnections@gmail.com
Summary of Incentives available to maximize our effectiveness in promoting renewable energy:
*The administration of the Focus on Energy program has been awarded to the Shaw Group, a Louisiana-based corporation which is heavily invested in the fossil fuel industries. They have decided the state's investor-owned utilities cannot fund this program supporting business solar incentives, so it was discontinued in July of 2011. Residential solar programs have been allowed to continue for a short length of time without any promise of renewing in 2012.
For more information on the USDA Rural Energy for America program, click here.
To see if your "Rural" property qualifies under REAP, click here.
For more information on Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) through the Treasury, click here.