A push to make solar power equipment and installation affordable for property owners while educating them on the benefits of solar energy is underway in two Milwaukee neighborhoods.
Milwaukee Shines, the city’s solar program, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance are teaming up to expand a group purchasing program for the alternative energy source into Layton Boulevard West and Washington Heights.
The purchasing program groups property owners together and submits requests for proposals to solar power companies on their behalf. This is less expensive for property owners than purchasing solar equipment and installation alone.
“We’re using the power of buying in bulk to lower the cost for the homeowner,” said Amy Heart, the manager of Milwaukee Shines, in a statement. “Solar is a viable option in Milwaukee, and this program helps residents learn about the technology and connect with financing solutions to make it a reality for their home or business.”
Another component of the program is education. Several informational sessions where property owners can learn about solar power have been scheduled in each neighborhood during the next few months.
The next informational session in Layton Boulevard West will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18, at the Urban Ecology Center, 3700 W. Pierce St. A session in Washington Heights will be at 6 p.m. Monday at the Urban Ecology Center, 1859 N. 40th St.
The use of solar power reduces the amount of coal emissions resulting in cleaner air, according to Peter Murphy of the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance. Another benefit to solar power is that it reduces energy costs for homeowners, he said.
“It’s a sound investment because energy prices will go up; they have gone up forever,” Murphy said.
Solar equipment and installation will typically pay for itself in seven to 10 years with the current pricing structure set by We Energies, Murphy said. However, We Energies has asked the Public Service Commission to allow the utility to boost its fixed charges from $9 to $16 a month and introduce a fee for customers with solar panels on their homes.
The proposed changes in the pricing structure would make the return on investment 15 to 20 years, Murphy said.
Although the effort is concentrated in Layton Boulevard West and Washington Heights, the program is open to anyone in the Milwaukee area, Murphy said.
The group purchasing program was piloted in 2013 in Riverwest, where 17 homeowners installed solar, more than the amount of installs in the rest of Milwaukee the previous year. Another 35 homeowners in the Bay View neighborhood participated in the program earlier this year.
Correction: The location for the information session on Monday, Sept. 15, is incorrect. It will take place at the Washington Park library, 2121 N. Sherman Blvd. NNS regrets the error.