Solar Energy in Wisconsin

The Sun Also Rises In Wisconsin

wisconsin-solar-farmSome people think there is not enough sun in Wisconsin for solar energy systems. Not true! Madison is at 43 degrees North latitude. So is Rome, Italy. During the summer, Wisconsin is exposed to nearly 80% of the yearly solar energy received by the deserts of Arizona and Southern California.

In November and December in Wisconsin, sunshine tends to diminish and an average of only 2.5 hours of sun a day is available to power PV (photovoltaic) systems. On a clear day with a snow layer, there is up to a 60% output increase from light reflected from the snow. What’s more, efficiency of crystalline PV cells is superior in cold weather. So on a bright Wisconsin winter day, crystalline PV systems will maximize their output, and actually outperform similar systems in the Arizona desert. So, Solar Energy in Wisconsin is growing by leaps and bounds especially around the environmentally conscience areas that surround Madison, WI. Farms and rural areas are also coming on board as they utilize tremendous land and roof space to provide for their energy needs.

During the summertime, a PV system is at the absolute peak of its solar resource which corresponds with utilities’ biggest period of need based on usage. This is also the time that power typically cost the most.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems are based on materials, often silica, which produce a current of electricity when hit by sunlight. This electrical current is then modified by an inverter  to produce an alternating current of a very high level. The PV system can  be connected to a home and the local electric utility or be completely independent of the utility grid.

How much energy a photovoltaic system creates is based on

• Orientation of the collecting surface
• Site characteristics (i.e.  are there any obstructions to the sun).
• Conversion efficiency of the solar energy system

Homeowners can determine the size of the solar panel system, its orientation, and, to some degree, the site characteristics and the system’s efficiency.

Technology continues to make the option more and more affordable. The University of Wisconsin (Madison) is among several of the leaders in solar research. The UW Solar Energy Lab (SEL) is the oldest of its kind in the world. It has been recognized nationally and internationally for accomplishments in practical applications for solar energy. UW-Madison’s SEL was awarded the highest distinction given by the International Solar Energy Society, the Weeks award, for outstanding achievements in developing practical uses of solar energy.

There are several local technical colleges actively training solar technicians and technologies as well. On March 7th-9th of last month there was successful sustainability summit held at the Frontier Airlines Center in Milwaukee. Several institutions were represented. Many topics were discussed. Among them were PV systems.

The Wisconsin legislature is generally quite supportive. Until last June Focus on Energy offered incentives for small businesses and homeowners that wanted to install renewable systems. When June came they announced a “limited suspension” of payments to small businesses. After the first of the year they ceased the renewable incentives to homeowners too. There were promises made of a restart in the spring but as of the spring season the program has not been restarted. Budget restraints have put many programs like this on hold, but the economic viability of solar energy no longer depends on subsidies. Now it can stand on it’s own economic strength as traditional energy costs continue to rise.

The need for solar heat, solar water, and solar electric is obvious. Solar power is a strong candidate as an alternative to the oil dependency issues our country faces. There are some programs around to assist with finance in the interim as we wait for the government assistance to kick back in. Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WECC) for example promotes assistance with PV systems. Both Solar Thermal (solar hot water) and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems are actually ideal for Wisconsin. Please contact one of our Solar Stores in Wisconsin for more information about going solar.

Wisconsin Solar Store in Baraboo

Wisconsin Solar Store in Highland

Wisconsin Solar Store in Fitchburg

Whatever system consumers choose for solar energy, the more we all throw off the yoke of fossil fuel dependence and the more energy secure we will feel in our homes and businesses.

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