How Municipal Governments Harness Renewable Solar Energy

December 06, 2019

In 2018, following a successful referendum passed by the community, the City of Middleton, Wisconsin set an ambitious goal to be 100% renewably powered by 2035. In order to get there, the city needed to find new sources of renewable energy and the partners to help them reach their goal. 

Enter OneEnergy Renewables and our own Eric Udelhofen. Having lived and worked in the area for almost a decade, Eric understands the desire of Midwest municipal governments to transition away from fossil fuels while also protecting taxpayer dollars. Doing so requires a combination of creativity, perseverance, and the ability to optimize a solar site’s design. 

The OneEnergy team and the City devised a plan to develop a solar energy project on city-owned land. After reviewing several potential properties, they settled on approximately 21 acres owned by the City at the Middleton Municipal Airport (also known as Morey Airport). Siting the project on airport land introduced additional challenges from a permitting perspective because, unlike project sited in other locations, this one required Federal Aviation Administration approval. However, with diligent effort and collaboration, OneEnergy, MG&E and the City of Middleton successfully brought the project through a two-year permitting effort.  

Big Goal, Big Savings

This past November, City leaders broke ground on the five megawatt project known as Morey Airport Solar. Morey Airport Solar does more than just help Middleton reach its renewable energy goal; it will also save taxpayer dollars. By purchasing 30 percent of Middleton Solar’s power, the Middleton-Cross Plains School District is expected to save more than $1 million by 2049 and the city will save another $353,000 over the same time frame. 

Seventy percent of Middleton Solar is reserved for Madison Gas & Electric customers, making locally-sourced solar energy via MG&E’s  Shared Solar program available to everyone -- without having to put panels on their own property. 

Optimizing a solar site’s site design 

By utilizing a highly-efficient single-axis tracking design, Middleton Solar will generate a high rate of solar energy per panel. Combined with the efficient design on land that was previously not earning revenues for the city, the City of Middleton and the Middleton-Cross Plains School District will now capture new revenues and energy efficiencies that previously weren’t possible while opening up new opportunities for their residents and businesses to go solar. 

“It has been a huge pleasure working with the City of Middleton and MG&E to bring this project through to construction,” Udelhofen said. “We hope to build on this successful collaboration with other municipalities and utilities to continue to advance the industry in the Midwest.”

Middleton Meets the Challenge

Municipal governments are becoming leaders in America’s transition to renewable energy. The city of Middleton shows us that big clean energy goals are achievable with the right partners and strategy. Leveraging city-owned land is a creative way to generate new tax revenue for your community while modernizing your energy sources with locally-sourced solar energy that do not require imported fossil fuels.   

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