‘Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters Install Solar Panels with Help from Solar for Good and Focus on Energy’

Submitted by Sam Dunaiski, Program Manager of RENEW Wisconsin

Sinsinawa, WI – On Monday, November 26th, at 10:30 AM the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, together with installer Eagle Point Solar, Focus on Energy, and RENEW Wisconsin will celebrate the installation of three solar arrays at Sinsinawa Mound, the motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Dominicans and their conference and retreat center. The Sisters will hold a blessing and a ribbon-cutting for the panels as part of the celebration.

Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque, IA completed the three solar installations this past October. The three arrays will directly supply power to a waste-water treatment plant, a well house, and St. Dominic Villa, a skilled nursing facility. Each solar array will offset the congregation’s electric use by 30%, saving the organization over $35,000 in annual utility costs.

“This is a shining example of a public-private partnership that provides genuine economic and environmental benefits,” said Jim Pullen, General Manager of Eagle Point Solar. “We are proud to have worked with RENEW and the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters to make this possible.”

The solar installation was made possible in part by Solar for Good, an initiative from the renewable energy advocates at RENEW Wisconsin. Solar for Good is primarily funded by philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard of Deerfield, WI. The Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters received a $20,000 grant from Solar for Good in 2017 to assist in the funding of the solar arrays.

“This project represents an incredible investment in solar power,” said Sam Dunaiski, Program Manager for RENEW Wisconsin. “This is by far our largest Solar for Good project to date. It’s three-times the size of the next largest project and generates enough electricity to power over 50 homes.”

The organization also received a $60,000 grant from Focus on Energy, a statewide program that offers information, services, and financial incentives to help residents and businesses select and install cost-effective solutions that save energy and money. “Partnering with Alliant Energy, Focus on Energy is proud to support the Sinsinawa Dominicans,” stated Mark Lydon, an Energy Advisor with Focus on Energy. “The $60,000 incentive helps to accelerate the system’s payback by approximately 2 years.  Over its lifetime, this array will have the same effect as the avoidance of burning 3,000 tons of coal.”

In addition to the rebates from Solar for Good and Focus on Energy, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters made a substantial upfront investment to pay for the solar array. The organization invested over $400,000 to fund the remainder of the project. “The installation of the solar energy systems is part of our Dominican commitment to respond to Pope Francis’ urgent summons of Laudato Si to care for Earth, our home,” said Sister Angelo Collins, OP, who serves on the Leadership Council of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.

“We recognize Sinsinawa Mound as a sacred place entrusted to our care,” said Ray Hess, Chief Operations Officer at Sinsinawa Mound. “With that in mind we are taking a step forward in reducing our carbon footprint through solar energy.”

To date, Solar for Good has awarded over $200,000 in grants, resulting in over $1.6 million in new solar projects. Grants have been issued to 21 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations including houses of worship, veterans’ services, and schools. These nonprofits will produce 730kW of clean, renewable electricity, enough to power nearly 150 homes.

How to Apply

The fall 2018 round of funding for Solar for Good was completed on November 13, 2018. Another round of funding will be announced on March 1, 2019.

Solar for Good grants fund up to 20% of the cost of a solar array, with a grant cap of $10,000 for solar arrays sized less than 75 kW and a cap of $20,000 for arrays 75 kW and above. In order to be eligible, the organization must be a registered nonprofit organization located in Wisconsin, be in good financial standing, be ready to install solar and agree to participate in educating community members about the benefits of solar energy. If approved for a grant, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.

For organizations looking at solar for the first time, technical assistance grants are available to fund a solar site assessment (up to $250) or engineering review (up to $500) for their solar array. These applications will be reviewed separately from the applications for grants for solar installation and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

About RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization which promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs that support solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, and geothermal energy. More information on RENEW’s website: www.renewwisconsin.org.