The Energy Fair

The 29th Energy Fair (MREA): Community Solar in Wisconsin—Finance Large and Small Projects

June 17, 2018 @ 12:00pm – The Red Flag Tent, 29th Energy Fair

Kurt Reinhold, Owner, Solar Connections, LLC, President, Legacy Solar Wisconsin Cooperative will present an in-depth discussion on the challenges of projects big and small and some help with overcoming those challenges.

More information at

LSC will be tabling at the fair the whole weekend so please stop by!

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Ken & Barb, Part III: The Secret’s Out

Nickolas Hein – 5/17/18

(See Part 1) (See Part 2)

It’s been a few months since Ken and Barb completed the solar PV installation on their rooftop and they’re visiting with Phil – an energy auditor – to check in on how well the system is working for them.  They’ve inspected the panels on the rooftop to confirm that everything looks good.  Aesthetically the panels blend in with the existing shingle pattern they had on their roof.  Although roofs on older homes sometimes need reinforcing to hold the extra weight of the panels, theirs was given the OK without modification after a structural inspection (an optional, but recommended step).  Since it is an older house and the roof has sagged a little, there was some minor expense for adjustable mounting feet to conform to the surface.  Phil also points out the edge guards that were installed to keep out wildlife that could damage the panels and wiring.

Inside, they’ve looked at the electrical panel and inverter where the solar power comes into the house.  The electrical service had been upgraded previously so they had an extra breaker slot to bring in the power.  The inverter they chose is “battery-ready” meaning that in a year or two, when batteries are more available and have some reputation for dependability they can add storage without major modifications.  There are simple displays on the inverter and meter to show how much electricity they are making, and when they are making more than they are using.  At these times they are credited for excess production, so they can draw on it like a bank account.  Through an app on their phone, they can check the numbers any time and make adjustments when necessary.

Now they’re having coffee at kitchen table and discussing their experience.  Read more

Solar panels on a roof

Should You Add Batteries to Your Rooftop Solar Installation?

Nickolas Hein – 4/23/18

In the past few years battery technology has advanced at a rapid rate, resulting in a rapid decrease in the cost of electric storage and the associated systems (Fig 1).  Although this has been driven primarily by electric vehicle adoption, home battery systems have been direct beneficiaries. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance “Lithium-ion battery packs are selling at an average price of $209 a kilowatt-hour, down 24 percent from a year ago and about a fifth of what it was in 2010, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance survey shows. The rate has further to fall — reaching below $100 a kilowatt-hour by 2025, according to a report by BNEF analyst James Frith.  Developers of stationary storage systems — like the kind that back up rooftop solar panels — can expect to pay 51 percent more than automakers because of much lower order volumes.”

Recent Cost Reductions for Lithium Ion Batteries - Bloomberg

Recent Cost Reductions for Lithium Ion Batteries – Bloomberg

If you’re considering installing solar panels in the near future, you probably want to consider adding battery storage to your system. We’ve asked Ed Zinthefer, President of Arch Electric, to answer some of the common questions from the homeowners before they install a new system.  Read more

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Ken and Barb, Part II: Ken’s Secret

Nickolas Hein – 4/16/18

(See Part 1)

Ken is also thinking about the energy upgrades they did recently.  This is the first night after the improvements had been made, and he’s a little uneasy about all the money they had to spend up front to make them happen.  He realizes that there are paybacks in comfort, convenience and simplicity that they notice right away.  Yet secretly he can’t shake the uneasy feeling that they put this was a lot of money to spend at one time, including some that came out of their retirement account.  He feels right about the decision, but he doesn’t yet feel good about it.  Now they are about to make decision about adding rooftop solar to their home to further reduce their dependence on the electric utility and fossil fuels.

They’ve gotten an assessment from Legacy Solar Co-op showing that they can offset their electric usage almost entirely with a modest-sized system of several kilowatts.  The assessment included financial projections showing that the money they’ll have to spend up front will be paid back in only a few years.  If they choose to finance it their electric bill will be nearly the same until the loan is paid back, and then will be lower by hundreds of dollars a year.  If they take money out of their retirement account, they’ll avoid the interest costs and end up with a better return on their investment than any of their current accounts are giving – and it’s equivalent to a guaranteed rate of return.  Since the panels and equipment are guaranteed for 25 years* (and are usable for up to 40) years. When they are retired, and their incomes are fixed this will mean their electric costs are fixed too.  If anything does need to be upgraded after retirement, they may be able to deduct the expense (if current tax deductions for renewables continue).  Read more

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Spring Member Bond Drive: Get your Slice of Sun now!

Spring 2018

Anyone anywhere in Wisconsin can become a Member of Legacy Solar Co-op for as little as $25, and once a Member, you are eligible to buy Slice-of-Sun Solar Bonds at $250 apiece.

Why would anyone want to buy Slice-of-Sun Solar Bonds?  Here’s why:

  1. To grow more and more solar projects in Wisconsin;
  2. To earn up to 6% interest on your money;
  3. To support local and statewide clean energy initiatives;
  4. To help community institutions reduce their overhead (lower energy bills);
  5. To build a clean energy Legacy that will last 40-plus years!

Member Bonds are sold by the Co-op in order to support solar projects all over Wisconsin.  The Co-op pays up to 6% interest on your Slice-of-Sun bonds over 12 years.  Members receive both principal and interest payments annually.  The Co-op makes secured loans to qualified solar projects and uses the revenue from those loans to pay back bondholders over the same 12-year horizon.

Read more…

If you are ready to buy Co-op bonds, go to this page for the next step

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Ken and Barb, Part I: She’s Got a Secret

Nickolas Hein – 3/20/18

Ken and Barb are sitting at home after dinner in the evening – together, yet each alone with their thoughts. It turns out Barb has a secret. This was the year that they decided to have an energy audit and give their 100-year old Madison home the energy and efficiency upgrades they’ve been promising themselves. Their reasons were the typical ones that make it feel like the right decision. They knew it could save them some money and they wanted to do the right thing for the environment, like so many of their neighbors have.

On the recommendation of the auditor they replaced their aging furnace with the latest 92% efficient model with a 2-speed blower and Nest thermostat. The old water heater went (turns out it wasn’t vented properly) for a new one with better controls and direct venting. They insulated the entire house with cellulose for a better R-value. Along the way they updated some unsafe electrical wiring and closed some gaps in the foundation that were letting in the wrong sort of wildlife. They both looked at the financial projections from the auditor, seeing that their monthly bills will be lower, and the resale value of the house will increase when it’s time to sell. The auditor also informed them that the increased value would not affect the assessed value of the house, so there’s no downside to upgrading. All this made Barb feel RIGHT about their decision.

Read more

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2018 Solar Investing

Tony Hartmann – 2/20/18

No such thing a ‘sure thing’ when it comes to investing, right? Well, if you think the sun’ll come up tomorrow, investing in solar infrastructure is as close as it gets. Since its beginning, the Legacy Solar Co-op (LSC) has facilitated solar investment not only because renewable energy is clean and sustainable, but because it makes sense economically. A lot of sense. Not-for-profits and home-owners almost always see a return on investment (ROI) in the neighborhood of 10-12%, businesses 15% and more. So, the 2018 solar investor can do good and make a sweet return on their investment…

As Don Pardo used to say, ‘but wait, there’s more…’

Legacy Solar Co-op has long been an advocate for energy efficiency efforts, projects that go hand and glove with distributed (pv) energy production. In Wisconsin, the Focus On Energy (FOE) program does more than just reward you (to the tune of thousands) for installing solar PV. You get further cash dividends by swapping out motors, furnaces, water-heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs/fixtures and much, much more. For starters, rate-payers can get FREE STUFF, like LED bulbs and water-saving fixtures just by going here and choosing a ‘pack’.

but again, there’s more… Read more

Steve and Beth Israel solar panels

Beth Israel Center *

* LSC Member

LOCATION: Madison, Wisconsin   |   CAPACITY: 65 kW   |   COMPLETION DATE: December 2017


We installed a 65 kW solar array that is producing nearly half of the electricity consumed by our synagogue. By significantly reducing our carbon footprint, this project affirms our commitment to the traditional teaching of Tikkun Olam — the notion that we are responsible for “repair of the world.” Undoubtedly, the long-term economics of solar are such that investments like these are highly favorable. With Legacy Solar Coop’s help, we were able to structure the financing so that, in the near term, we could satisfy our fiscally conservative constraints. Throughout the process, Kurt Reinhold guided us through many aspects of the financing and was exceedingly generous with his time.

– Steve Goldstein, Board of Directors and Member, Beth Israel

A traditional, egalitarian synagogue in Madison, Wisconsin, Member Beth Israel Center is a vibrant and diverse community of 260 families — a caring, spiritual home that is alive with celebration, learning, prayer and a commitment to tikkun olam.

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Fitchburg City Hall - photo courtesy of Arch Electric

City of Fitchburg

LOCATION: Fitchburg, Wisconsin   |   CAPACITY: 362KW   |   COMPLETION DATE: November 2017

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See energy usage

The City of Fitchburg is committed to renewable energy, having installed solar panels on the roofs of their buildings starting in 2009. LSC provided site assessments, City staff support, financial cost and benefit projections, RFP support, and public meeting testimony for the solar project that led to adding almost 1,000 panels (362 kW) to the West Fire Station, City Hall, Public Works Maintenance Facility and the Fitchburg Public Library. The project added about 452,000 kWh of renewable electricity. Read more

Breitenmoser Family Farm *

* LSC Member

LOCATION: Merrill, Wisconsin   |   CAPACITY: 19.8 kW   |   COMPLETION DATE: November 2017

North Wind Renewable Energy Co-op

Member Breitenmoser Family Farm, located in Merrill, is owned and operated by Hans Jr. and Katie Breitenmoser and has been in operation for the last two generations. The Breitenmosers are strong supporters of renewable agriculture in family run farms and rural communities, this not being their first solar installation. They also supported the TB Scott Library project as bondholders and are members of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

“As we work to influence policy regarding distributed generation in the State of WI, we have to find creative ways to fund solar. Legacy Solar Co-op helps fill that need and provides a means by which more people can enjoy the benefits of a renewable future.”
– Hans Breitenmoser

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