On the heels of the Monona City Council passing a 100 percent Clean Energy and Resiliency Resolution this spring, the city’s sustainability committee announced it has teamed up with RENEW Wisconsin to join MadiSUN, a solar energy program designed to make the installation of solar panels directly on residential homes and businesses more affordable than ever before.

This initiative is in direct response to interest expressed by the community through the resident energy survey, also being conducted by the sustainability committee.

“We’re thrilled to be able to respond so quickly to community demand,” said Alder Nancy Moore, chairwoman of the sustainability committee. “RENEW Wisconsin has been a champion for clean energy solutions throughout the state and has been offering this program to other communities for several years with great success. We couldn’t ask for a more reliable or knowledgeable partner.”

The first of three informational sessions for the program was held June 6.

“We recognize that climate change is a real thing,” Moore said. “It’s a real deal, and we need to get ourselves off of fossil fuels.”

Clean energy relates to two things, she said.

“One is being as efficient as we possibly can be with the energy that we use. And two, we have do so with less fossil fuels.”

Solar energy is one way to do that.

RENEW Wisconsin administers the MadiSUN program to increase the number of residences and businesses in the Madison area with solar systems. A group buy enables residents and businesses to use their collective buying power to bring down the cost of a solar installation, while having the opportunity to get all questions answered by vetted and experienced installers.

In addition to the cost of the installation dropping because of this buying power, participants can still take advantage of a 30 percent tax credit in 2019 and another 12 percent in savings through Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program.

“This year is a sweet spot with prices coming down and incentives and tax credits still at a high,” said Sam Dunaiski, program manager with RENEW Wisconsin.

However, tariffs on foreign-made panels and materials for U.S-made panels won’t let prices come down any more.

“We’re kind of maxed out on what we can do with materials,” he said.

Dunaiski debunked a few myths people often hear about solar energy in Wisconsin: The state doesn’t have enough sunlight for solar energy, it’s too expensive and it’s not reliable.

At night or on cloudy days when panels are not producing electricity, homes are still tied to the electric grid for power needs.

When panels produce more than what is needed in a home, the excess is sent back to the electric grid, and the electric company credits the homeowner for the energy.

Dunaiski said solar panel-equipped home often means an increase in the market value, averaging about 17 percent. Even better, there is a state exemption for solar panels, so the assessed value can’t increase because they are installed on a home.

The average payback for the costs to install solar panels is 7-10 years, but because they will last an estimated 30 years, they are financially worth the investment, he said.

According to the MadiSUN website, homes that are ideal for rooftop solar typically have some south-, southeast- or southwest-facing roof area; are not shaded by trees, buildings or other obstacles; and are structurally sound and in good condition.

While orientation and shading are important, there are other factors, too.

A typical residential solar installation will require at least 300 square feet of roof space. However, this varies depending on the size of the solar system being installed.

Your roof should be in good condition before installing solar panels. For those anticipate re-roofing your home in the next 10 years, it may make sense to wait on installing solar.

Investing in efficient appliances and lighting, for example, can have a big impact on your electric bill. And when you use less electricity, even a small solar array can meet your needs.

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