MADISON AERIAL Capitol 10.jpg

In this file photo, the rooftops of the four wings of the state Capitol sport solar panels, part of a demonstration project through Madison, Gas and Electric.

PHOTO BY MIKE DeVRIES

On Monday, the city of Madison announced two programs to help Madison residents transition their homes to solar power. The weather at the morning press conference provided a bright outlook for the program.

“It’s a great day to have solar panels on our roof,” said homeowner Steve Elmore, who purchased solar panels for his house in 2012. “It’s a sunny day and we’re raking in the dough here,” he joked.

The Solar Energy Loan Program and the MadiSUN Group Purchase Program make it more affordable for Madison homeowners like Elmore to purchase rooftop solar systems.

The MadiSUN Group Purchase Program allows residents to buy solar systems as a group, using collective buying power to lower cost. RENEW Wisconsin, a company that promotes renewable energy, is currently reviewing bids from solar companies across the region, and will direct homeowners to the selected company. Madison has hosted similar group purchasing programs in the past, and is looking for about 15 to 20 households across the city to participate.

Elmore and his wife purchased a solar system as part of a group buy in 2012. They appreciated the structure of the program, as it not only lowered the cost by 10 to 15 percent, but gave them support through the process.

“The group buy allows you to get all your questions answered, and you’re doing it with a group of people so you can rest assured that there will be others by your side,” Elmore said.

The Solar Energy Loan Program, in partnership with Summit Credit Union, will allow homeowners to finance 100 percent of the cost of a solar system. Summit is offering loans for up to 15 years.

Homeowners can receive additional financial incentives to go solar, said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. While a typical installation costs around $15,000, options like Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy $2,400 cash rebate and a Federal Tax Credit reimbursing 30 percent of the cost of the system can bring the cost down to about $9,000, Huebner said. The $2,400 cash rebate is not guaranteed in coming years, making 2016 the idea time to go solar, Huebner added.

Elmore and his wife bought 12 solar panels for their home, and about 70 to 80 percent of the energy needed to run their home is produced by the panels.

They expect that their initial investment of about $9,000 will be paid off in 10 or 11 years.

“And after that, I guess we can consider it free energy,” Elmore said. “We’ll continue to make energy for the 25 year life span of the panels.”

“These kinds of programs are going to be a financial win for all of us,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said. The community, free from the environmental and health costs of increased carbon output, will benefit alongside homeowners, he said.

These two programs are one small part of the city’s effort to go green. Last week, the City Council passed an Energy Work Plan, an effort by the Sustainable Madison Committee to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and increase public and private use of renewable energy sources. Madison aims to obtain 25 percent of electricity, heating and transportation energy from clean energy sources by 2025.

Madison has been installing solar systems on city-owned buildings in recent years, said Alder Sara Eskrich.

“This partnership is a way that we can help our residents to further their commitment to solar energy sources in their own houses,” said Eskrich.

“People love solar,” Huebner said. “Certainly it makes them feel very good to know that energy is being produced right on their rooftop, from a clean source of energy that’s renewable.”

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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