A pre-convention workshop, "Moving Solar Forward," will kick off the Wisconsin Farmers Union
84th annual State Convention Jan. 23-25 at The Plaza Hotel in Eau Claire. The workshop, from noon to 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, will feature two tracks, one covering on-farm and household solar installations and another on community and group solar projects in the state.
"We know that building a renewable energy infrastructure in our rural areas is essential for the viability of farming, agriculture and rural communities in the future," said WFU President Darin von Ruden, "so we are bringing together farmers, rural residents and folks working in energy and renewables for an active conversation on plans and strategies."
Track one will consider the steps necessary to assess, design, finance and install a solar system at a farm or residence. Presenters will provide case studies and lead a workshop activity for each participant to work out a task list, timeline and financing opportunities for the project they are considering. Speakers will include Josh Stolzenburg, North Wind Renewable Energy; Eric Udelhofen, H&H Solar; Zeus Stark, Next Step Energy; Brenda Heinen, USDA Rural Development; and Paul Dietmann, Badgerland Financial. Attendees to this track are asked to bring their own energy bills for a hands-on activity.
Track two will include a strategic roundtable on a collaborative push for solar in Wisconsin, with specific cases presented, including logistics and financing mechanisms for group solar purchases and community solar projects. Speakers include Peter Murphy of Riverwest Cooperative Alliance; Dave Maxwell of Vernon Electric Cooperative, Doug Stingle of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Lynn Thompson from the Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, as well as invited lenders.
The workshop will kick off with an overview for all attendees on the "State of Solar in Wisconsin" by Michael Vickerman of Renew Wisconsin. Both tracks will gather for a final general session sparking discussion on strategy and a work plan for moving solar forward together in Wisconsin.
The cost for the workshop is $15 for WFU members and $30 for nonmembers, which includes lunch. To register, call the WFU State Office at 715-723-5561 or send a check, payable to Wisconsin Farmers Union, with the printable registration form available at www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com.
WFU calls for farmers to be considered part of the energy solution, rather than the problem, with a focus on establishing clean, independent energy policy. Many WFU members have taken the initiative to install solar energy systems to support their farm operations, but the group recognizes there is much work yet to be done.
"Solar power is a shining American success story, with a solar system being installed in the U.S. every three minutes, on average; however solar installations in Wisconsin are not keeping pace with the rest of the country, and there is much to do to increase clean energy adoption in the Badger State," said Midwest Renewable Energy Association Development Director Doug Stingle, who will be among roundtable participants during the workshop. "Working with farmers and homeowners, businesses and others to highlight the benefits of solar – including job creation, local control and energy freedom – we can push Wisconsin forward."
Wisconsin Farmers Union is a member-driven organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities and all citizens through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors and civic engagement.