RENEW Wisconsin: Big Increase In Solar Energy Expected In Next Few Years

Solar Panel Installers Ramping Up Workforce To Tackle Increase In Workload

Solar panels
Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Wisconsin renewable energy advocates say they’re optimistic about the potential growth in solar energy in the next few years.

According to the group RENEW Wisconsin, the amount of electricity generated by solar in the state could grow 20-fold in the next few years.

At the group’s annual conference Thursday in Madison, executive director Tyler Huebner said the last three years have been good for solar. He said the transmission industry reports there are about 80 megawatts of solar energy produced in the state, enough to power about 11,000 homes — and that’s just a start.

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“In the queue is 20 times that amount,” Huebner said. “It’s just a really landmark shift in the type of solar energy and the amount of energy that could be built in Wisconsin over the next five years.”

Huebner said maybe not all of that will be built, but there’s a good chance a lot of it will be. A few Wisconsin utilities are promising to build large-scale solar farms, and more commercial and industrial buildings are joining homeowners in putting up solar panels.

Solar panel installers say they’re looking forward to the additional work.

Ed Zinthefer, of the Plymouth-based Arch Electric, told the conference he’s had to hire more staff.

“So we’re looking at each other wondering how we’re going to get this work done,” Zinthefer said. “We bulked up, and we’re bringing a lot of skill sets on board right now to manage the increased workload.”

Zinthefer said his firm has contracts to install 3 megawatts of solar this year.