Wind, solar energy ready for prime time in Wisconsin and beyond

Last month, In Business published an interview with Wayne Winegarden, a George Mason University economist and senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

It is important for readers to understand that Mr. Winegarden’s views on wind, solar, and nuclear power production are not representative of what we’re seeing in the marketplace today in Wisconsin or throughout the country.

The cost of both solar and wind technologies have dropped over 60% in the past seven years. Today, a utility or business can contract or build a wind farm, and the power will be cheaper than any other new resource, including natural gas, from today through 2040.

Moreover, corporations across America are investing directly in renewable energy projects at unprecedented levels. Over 60 companies, including the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, Google, Amazon, General Motors, and more have banded together to form the “Corporate Buyers Principles” asking power companies to offer more renewable energy programs for them.

Citizens and businesses alike are installing more solar power than ever, because doing so will save money. In Madison, nearly 40 homeowners installed solar through the city’s MadiSUN program last year. Businesses like Isthmus Engineering, Central Storage & Warehouse, Steep & Brew, new apartment complexes, and so many more are installing solar, as well.

On the contrary, nuclear energy is not faring well in the competitive market. In Wisconsin, the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant was shut down a couple years ago because it couldn’t compete in the Midwest’s wholesale grid.

One utility in America is trying to build a new nuclear plant, and the stats surrounding it are chilling, especially for someone concerned about the costs of energy to low-income customers, as Mr. Winegarden is.

The project is called the Vogtle Nuclear Plant and is being constructed in Georgia. Here’s what we know:

  • The original budget of $14 billion is now projected as $21 billion.
  • Construction is barely more than one-fourth of the way done — even though it started five years ago — but is already 39 months behind!
  • Millions of dollars per day are being added to the cost based on these delays.

There is no assurance that any other nuclear power plant constructed in the U.S. would fare any differently.



Meanwhile, solar and wind are seeing growth, economies of scale, and dramatic cost reductions, and are poised to continue their march toward being mainstream power sources for decades to come.

To learn more about what’s happening on renewable energy in Wisconsin and beyond, I encourage readers to attend our organization’s 6th annual Renewable Energy Summit. Our theme this year is “Clean Energy Goes Mainstream,” and it’s being held on Thursday, Jan. 19, at Monona Terrace in Madison.

Barbara Nick, the CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, will headline the morning session. Under her leadership, Dairyland is building large wind and solar projects throughout western Wisconsin.

The afternoon will be headlined by the national Executive Director of Vote Solar, Adam Browning, who is coming in from California to discuss the status, key issues, and prospects for solar energy’s growth in Wisconsin and beyond. His parents live in Wisconsin, so he knows our state territory well.

I encourage you to join us on Jan. 19 to learn more. You’ll see an exciting picture of a huge growth opportunity for Wisconsin’s economy.

Tyler Huebner is executive director of RENEW Wisconsin.

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