Organization looks to future of clean energy

Windmill in use for renewable energy.
Windmill in use for renewable energy.

Clean energy continues to grow in use across the nation. In 2017, 11 percent of total U.S. Energy consumption came from renewable energy.

For more than a decade Xcel Energy exceeded Wisconsin’s renewable energy requirement.

“I think we’re going to be building eight new wind projects in the next year or two,” Community Service Manager Mike Herro said. “We continue to, system-wide, shut down some of our older coal plants.”

The announcement comes out along side a new report showing clean/renewable energy employs a lot of Wisconsin residents.

“A big driver for specifically wind and solar is the costs have come down dramatically in the last decade.”

The report by Clean Jobs Midwest finds Wisconsin saw 191 new jobs last year in the field, an eight percent growth. While Xcel currently provides nearly 28 percent of energy by renewable sources, they hope to more than double that.

A pile of woodchips for a biomass boiler.
A wood chip pile for Gundersen Health System’s biomass boiler.

“I think by 2030 we hope to be 60 percent renewable as a utility, which is almost unheard of in the industry,” Herro explained.

They’re not the only one. Katie Thomson with Dairyland Power Cooperative says 20 percent of their energy is renewable, with 18 solar sites.

RENEW Wisconsin says the state can be a great place for clean energy, but getting to using it completely will be difficult

“As we think about winter here in Wisconsin, I think there’s really some important and difficult technical challenges to solve to get to 100 percent, but I think we can go a long way,” Executive Director Tyler Huebner said.

Some wonder what will be next in future inventions to help get states across the nation closer to being more renewable energy dependent.

“I think the next thing on the horizon is some type of storage, to figure out how to harness some of that energy when you don’t use it the best,” Herro speculated.

The report shows despite uncertain policy environment at the federal level, clean energy employers are optimistic. they project adding more than 1,500 jobs in the next year alone.

Clean energy doesn’t just mean working with power companies as the two largest contributors of jobs are in manufacturing and construction.

Solar Panels installed on the roof of a home.
Jeremy Culver

Jeremy Culver

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